by Sally Absher


Wednesday September 30, 2015. Three Knoxville area preschool and elementary school children and their parents have filed suit in United States District Court in Nashville against Knox County Schools and the Tennessee Department of Education. The suit alleges that children with pervasive disabilities such as autism, intellectual disability, developmental delays, or multiple disabilities are placed in more segregated settings than is necessary or legal. The suit alleges these children are placed in a “comprehensive development class” where they are taught basic, functional skills, but denied access to a more rigorous educational experience that will better assist them in life. The lawsuit explains how funding is a source of the problem, with KCS receiving more state funding for placements in “more restrictive environments,” even though federal funding is conditioned on less restrictive environments.


The children and parents are represented by Justin Gilbert of the Chattanooga and Franklin law firm Gilbert, Russell, McWherter, Scott & Bobbitt. Mr. Gilbert says: “The aim of the suit is to explain how and why certain kids are being segregated at such a high rate in Knox County. The subject matter is complex, but immensely important. We hope to now work with KCS and TDOE to make fundamental changes in how these kids’ educational needs are assessed at such an early age.”


To see the full text of the lawsuit, click here.


Further inquiries may be addressed through Rachael Cook at