The Carroll County Board of Education is being accused of segregating students with disabilities from their non-disabled peers, as well as failing to provide adequate resources, according to a complaint filed with the Tennessee Department of Education and the Tennessee State Board of Education.
Representing the affected students and families, The Gilbert Firm’s Justin Gilbert explained to the Jackson Sun, “Children with special needs are entitled to access to their non-disabled peers, whether that is in the classroom, lunchroom, hallways, gym, or in extracurricular activities. Otherwise, we send the message that they are different, do not belong, and should be walled off from society.”
The Carroll County Special Learning Center
The Carroll County Special Learning Center (CCSLC) was created for students with disabilities, from preschool through grade 12. Typically serving between 40 to 70 students, the school closed in May 2018. Although it’s perfectly legal to create a learning center for students with disabilities, it is not legal to separate or segregate them from other students.
According to Attorney Gilbert, “Federal law does not allow totally segregated learning environments like the CCSLC.”
The complaint alleges that not only were the students separated from their non-disabled peers, but weren’t given adequate learning supplies, materials, or textbooks, were denied school-subsidized transportation, and did not learn an adequate curriculum according to state standards.
A county- and state-wide issue
The Sun reports that in May 2018, the Tennessee Board of Education notified Carroll County Schools Superintendent John McAdams that the state wouldn’t be renewing their contract with similar learning centers in five other school districts – Huntingdon, McKenzie, Hollow-Rock Bruceton, West Carroll and South Carroll. This decision came down after the state investigated complaints.
However, the filing alleges that the state didn’t properly do their job in effectively supervising and monitoring their learning centers. The complaint also says neither the state nor the county addressed the need to compensate the students for the educational opportunities they lost.
Denial of education
As outlined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), every student has the right to a free public education in the least restrictive environment. The complaint describes one student, for example, who was separated from his peers into the CCSLC. The young man has limitations in speaking, learning, digestion, elimination of waste and motor skills. The district chose to place him into the CCSLC full time, rather than hire him an aide for school instead. He spent the 2016 school year there until he found an advocate who successfully placed him into the non-segregated school the next year.
The families of the students in the complaint against the Tennessee Department of Education and the Tennessee State Board of Education are seeking compensatory educational relief, likely in a fund, based on the number of years their children were denied proper education.
Attorney Justin Gilbert is dedicated to protecting the right to education for students with disabilities in Tennessee.
Your child is entitled to a free public education in the least restrictive environment possible. The Tennessee special education attorneys at The Gilbert Firm can help protect your child’s rights when they’re being denied the right to a proper education. Call us today at 888.996.9731, or fill out our contact form. We maintain offices in Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis, Jackson and Knoxville.