Parents win special needs lawsuit against Hamilton Co. Schools
CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – A federal appeals court in Cincinnati ruled in favor of a Chattanooga couple who sued Hamilton County Schools over their son’s intellectual disability.
Fifteen year old Luka Hyde and his parents have been figting for his right to education for five years.
That’s after they say he was being segregated based on having down syndrome.
Luka Hyde was in third grade at Normal Park Magnet School when his family was notified he had been re-zoned to Red Bank, a program his mom Deborah believed was more segregated.
“As I advocated for other families of children with disabilities, the principal there decided it was time for Luka to move out of her school and go to Red Bank, where they have what is called a cluster site of a special education classroom for children with disabilities.”
Luka continued his education in a montessori program as his parents sued the county.
The final ruling by the appeals court upholds that children with disabilities be placed into the “least restrictive” learning environment possible.
“What it means is that, in the state of Tennessee the state of Kentucky the state of Ohio and the state of Michigan it will be much harder for schools to segregate children with disabilities.”
The director of Excellence Education for Hamilton County says the school system is already on thier way to enforcing non-restrictive classrooms.
“We already started planning, for this school year as a matter of fact a lot of our pre-schools are already full inclusion and we have several high schools that are inclusion and middle schools. So the goal is to basically look at it and restructure our department to dissolve some of the self contained classrooms and build support in a more general ed setting.”
The five year law suit cost Hamilton County over three quarters of a million dollars while sources estimate additonal support for disabled students only cost ten thousand dollars. A cost Deborah says could have been avoided.
“That would have taken Luka almost through when he’d have been out of Normal Park if you had just provided him an education. And it wasn’t even costing that much to do so. So we should care as tax payers, why are we litigating instead of educating?”