Knox County School Board rules autistic boy faced no discrimination

Matt and Stephanie Anderson began the school year with a ruling from the Knox County School Board on Wednesday, Sept. 2 upholding that their autistic son was not discriminated against when he was put in a special education classroom.

City County Building, Knoxville, TN. //Photo by Ryan McGill

Matt and Stephanie Anderson began the school year with a ruling from the Knox County School Board on Wednesday, Sept. 2 upholding that their autistic son was not discriminated against when he was put in a special education classroom.

The struggle between the Andersons and the school board began last year, when they filed an Americans with Disabilities complaint about their son, Jack. Knox County Schools had immediately placed their son in a special education program instead of a general classroom, as per the department procedure.

Since then, the Andersons have fought to change the system, alleging that the school system misinterprets federal law.

“This interpretation directly leads to unnecessary segregation from the general education classroom,” Mr. Anderson said during his presentation to the board.

The Andersons say that Knox County’s decision kept their son from being able to keep pace with other students and develop socially. Currently, he is pulled out of general education for an hour each day for special education in math, and he spends more time out of class to work on other subjects. During this time, he works on “mental math” – considered a first grade skill – while he shows proficiency in higher level subjects. This is to meet the goals listed on his individualized education program, or IEP.

“We got [mental math] off finally because we said he could use a calculator. It took us three IEP weeks to get that,” Mrs. Anderson said during her presentation.

While Jack is pulled out of class, he misses out on the general education curriculum, which costs him on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, or TCAP tests. They also say that he shouldn’t be pulled out in the first place and should instead be placed in a resource room, a remedial room where children with and without severe disabilities learn together.

The hearing comes soon after the state of Georgia was accused by the US department of Justice of segregating students with disabilities.

Kim Kredich, a supporter of the Andersons who stood with them during the hearing, said  they plan to move to the next step and take the matter outside Knox County.

“We’re prepared to take this to the next level with the Office of Civil Rights … It will be about systemic violations that constitute discrimination,” Kredich said.

Featured Image by Ryan McGill

Edited by Courtney Anderson