Chattanooga parents file civil lawsuit against Hamilton County - WSMV Channel 4

Parents file civil lawsuit against Hamilton County Department of Education

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

Third grader Luka attended Normal Park Magnet School since kindergarten. As a 10-year-old with down syndrome he spent six hours a day in general education classes, one hour in special education. His parents were happy with that, but this year all that changed.

"In previous years he had been progressing, this year he was not. Hamilton County claims its because he lacks the intellectual capacity to do that," Luka's mother, Deborah Hyde says. 

 In a midyear progress report Hyde says the school district laid out its findings.

"We're told at that meeting that Normal Park was no longer his least restrictive environment, which is a legal term, and that his new placement would be at Red Bank Elementary, which is six miles from our home. Luka doesn't know anybody and it would be in a segregated, comprehensive development classroom which is an environment with only students with disabilities," Hyde explains.

Hyde says the new classroom would reduce Luka's academic learning by 40 percent while spending more time in art, gym and music. "I believe it might be administratively convenient for Hamilton County Schools but there's no evidence to us that would actually meet his unique educational needs.

Although not allowed to discuss specific students Normal Park Principal Jill Levine insists the district always looks at what's best for each individual.

"Many students we can serve in general education classrooms with a general education curriculum, but there are also classes in our district for students who have higher needs," Levine says. "Some schools have a lot more to offer in terms of extra resources for students with a certain disability, extra staffing or special classes where certain needs can be met."

However, Hyde credits Luka's lack of progress on the educators, not the curriculum. "The educators are supposed to provide him with what he needs educationally to progress and our position is they didn't provide him that so he couldn't progress," says Hyde.

Channel 3 also spoke to Hamilton County Director of Special Education Margaret Abernathy who says if parents are unhappy with the education their special needs child receives the school district will request mediation. However, she says the Hydes refused it so the district is moving forward with legal counsel.

Luka's due process hearing is scheduled for October 29 and is open to the public.

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