Board of Education rejects autistic student’s discrimination appeal

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Knox County Board of Education votes no on parent’s discrimination appeal for their fourth-grade autistic son.

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The student’s father, Matt Anderson, pleaded his son’s case in front of the Board members.

The 10-year-old student was placed in a comprehensive developmental classroom (CDC) separate from the general education class. The parents claim that the CDC restrictive setting is in violation of Title II of the American Disabilities Act (ADA).

The student’s parents, Matt and Stephanie Anderson, filed a civil rights discrimination complaint on September 29th, 2014. A three-panel hearing and Knox County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre denied the parent’s discrimination claim last April.

“Knox County unnecessarily segregates students with pervasive disabilities; they just do,” exclaimed the student’s father during last night’s appeal hearing.

The Andersons first identified this discrimination when their son entered pre-school at Fort Sanders. The then three-year old student was placed in a full time special education classroom.

The student’s mother Stephanie continuously relayed, “You’re holding the information hostage and as he progresses through the years he’s not getting the same access to the information that the other children are.”

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The 2013-2014 State Report Card of Tennessee details the proficiency percentages of students with disabilities in the core classroom subjects.

She noted that much of this withheld information appears on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP). As students with disabilities take the TCAP, they are not prepared for certain test questions.

Susan Crabtree, the attorney representing Knox County Schools, argued that there was no violation under ADA.

“There’s no prejudice here. This is sound educational programming that the parents don’t agree with, but it’s sound programming, ” Crabtree insisted.

The board unanimously approved the previous decisions of the Knox County Schools hearing committee and Superintendent. Board Member Karen Carson expressed her support to uphold those decisions, but she ensured that this was not an easy verdict.

“This is one of those things that doesn’t leave you comfortable at the end, but it’s important to remember the charge before our body,” Carson stated.

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