September 19, 2021


by: admin


Tags: Claims, County, education, paying, schools, settle, special, Sullivan


Categories: Special needs education

Sullivan County Faculties paying as much as $225,000 to settle particular schooling claims | Training

BLOUNTVILLE – Sullivan County Schools is on track to pay $ 225,000 to resolve a lawsuit alleging failure to provide adequate education to a special school student.

The payments are being made to resolve allegations that the system has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as outlined by two attorneys for the student and his mother.

The school system left the student in a room with an untrained adult “sitter” for most of the school day and, as court documents claim, obscured their educational progress before an agreement was reached.

The 19-year-old student was 17 when his mother sought help from the Tennessee Department of Education. The student has autism and sensory integration disorder.

The Times News does not publish his or her name. Over the past few months, school authorities have consistently refused to comment on the matter.

“Anyone can read the public records and judge it,” said the mother on Thursday afternoon by phone. “I just know that people just have to read it and make their own judgment.”

Documents filed with the Sullivan County District Court indicate that the student was taken to a “break room” at the former Sullivan Central High School with an adult who was not trained in special needs education.

The student received lunch in this room and spent most of the time sleeping on a couch, according to one of the documents. The school system also provided the adult with a couch.

Additionally, court documents state that the school system falsified the student’s educational progress by giving them unsuccessful grades.

The student “is a challenge, but he is a person. He has a soul, ”the mother told the Times News. “No matter what he does, he is human. I can’t imagine people being treated like that. “

Sullivan County Schools has agreed to provide special education services to the student but no monetary amounts are disclosed. These services include behavioral analysis and job / transition assessments.

“What I started wasn’t for money,” said the mother.

According to the comparison, the school system “does not in any way represent an acknowledgment or determination of liability on the part of SCS”.

The responsibility of the school system ends when the student leaves the district. Otherwise, this responsibility ends at the end of the academic year when he turns 22, i.e. 2024-25.


Sullivan County Schools paid $ 37,916 to a special needs trust fund for the student in 2020, according to 1099 federal forms the Times News received through a filing request.

This is in line with a cash relief granted in an order signed by District Court Judge William K. Rogers on October 14, 2020 and filed with the District Court clerk on October 15.

In the request for approval of a minor settlement, the agreement calls for $ 113,750 in three installments: $ 37,916 in 2020; $ 37,917 through September 1, 2021; and an additional $ 37,917 through September 1, 2022.

In addition, $ 61,250 in legal fees and expenses went to Gilbert Law PLC, who represented the student and his mother, his conservator, under an order dated September 25, signed by Sullivan County Chancellor John McLellan III.

That adds up to $ 175,000. An additional amount of up to $ 50,000 for “Education and / or Related Services Payable Directly to the Contracting Agent” of the Mother’s choice is payable. The amount is up to $ 10,000 for 2020-21; up to $ 20,000 for 2021-22; and up to $ 20,000 for 2022-23.

The payments are used to resolve violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in accordance with the order signed by Rogers and the settlement approval motion.

Chattanooga attorney Justin S. Gilbert and Jackson attorney Jessica F. Salonus represented the student and his mother. Murfreesboro’s attorney, Deanna L. Arivet, represented the school system.

On September 29, 2020, Gilbert and Salonus submitted the “Request for Approval of a Minor Settlement”.

The complaint states that Sullivan County Schools “refused” [the student] adequate education by placing him in a segregated room without suitable teachers and materials so that he was denied free, adequate and non-discriminatory education during his high school years. SCS denied having broken the law. “

After the mother went to the Tennessee Department of Education, the case was assigned a mediator at the State Department’s Administrative Procedures Department in July 2020. Shortly after the mediation, around September 21, 2020, the petition states that an agreement has been reached, subject to approval by the court.


“[The student’s] The latest IEP (Individualized Education Program) states that [the student] is taught in a “Special Education Framework” known as the “Comprehensive Development Classroom” made up of children with special needs and taught by a certified special education educator. This should be done seven hours a day, 35 hours a week. He should be given breaks as needed, ”says the complaint.

“But in reality,” says the document, “[the student’s] For most of his day, a high school internship became a literal “break room.” SCS took him to a room that says “Break Room” outside with an adult sitter inside.

“The room has two sofas, one for [the student], one for the sitter. There is a sleeping mat and an exercise ball on the floor. A blanket is on [the student’s] Couch. There isn’t even a desk. And pedagogical lessons are rarely given. The sitter is not and should not be a certified teacher. There are no peers in the room with whom [the student] can associate. “

The claim says that lunch was usually brought to the student and most of the time he “sleeps on a couch with the ceiling in the room, the lights off. The sitter who is not a certified instructor tends to leave [the student] Rest or sleep for the day. The sitter regards this as the least amount of resistance to get through the day, even when it is not educationally appropriate for [the student.]”


The due process motion also alleges that SCS “masked” students’ educational progress. “Grades are given [the student] from SCS and are not really earned or even processed. “

“The lady who gave him grades had never seen him in her classroom,” said the mother. “Everything in this document (a due process motion) is gospel.”

“The whole situation denied him access to a teacher, his peers, classes, lunch with other students, the cafeteria, the library’s science lab, extracurricular activities, field trips and a gym,” the due process call reads. The extended isolation, the query said, violated state and federal special education requirements.


A settlement agreement was signed by the student’s mother on September 17, 2020, and then by then-Sullivan County Principal David Cox (now retired) on September 21; Assistant Director Angela Buckles who oversees Special Education; and Chairman of the Education Committee Randall Jones. This lists payments to the trust fund and attorneys, and then up to $ 50,000 for related services.

“This provision of compensation, although not an acknowledgment of liability, serves the complete fulfillment of any obligation to provide compensation education, which is set as relief in a lawsuit because of a due process,” says the agreement.

The agreement states that the student has been granted a zone exemption and has enrolled in Sullivan North High School for 2020-21 and that for as long as he is attending school in the SCS, the school system will be “certified with a mutually agreed private board of directors Behavioral analyst “will” contract as well as a private professional / transition assessment provider.

No dollar amount was given for these expenses. The school system also had to pay its own attorney, but no payments to them appeared on the 2020 1099 list that the system provided. No payment was made for contractually agreed special school services either.


The seven-member education committee approved the trust fund disbursement on November 5th on its approval agenda. The matter was never discussed publicly. That only happened after school officials signed the settlement.

The board’s vote to “authorize the executive committee to negotiate the terms of the settlement” came after a meeting of the executive branch, a meeting closed to the public earlier this year. School officials remained silent about why the payment was made for a “student legal matter” or how the amount was determined, even after being informed that it was a public matter on court records.

Tennessee allows executive meetings for government agencies to review current or pending litigation.

Jones said he would not comment on the matter, referring to the approval agenda and board minutes. Cox and interim director Evelyn Rafalowski also declined to comment.

Cox and Jones were on the executive committee at the time.

School board attorney Pat Hull also said he would not comment on the matter.

“I appreciate your persistence, but it is a confidential matter and I do not believe the press has any right to any information about it, nor do I think anything should be published about it,” Hull said in a per E -Mail sent response to questions about the trust fund disbursement. “Otherwise no comment.”

All four were interviewed again the week of September 13th and gave the same answer after being asked about the court records and the record of the protocol.

None of the court documents indicated a nondisclosure agreement, although the surname of the student and the mother were blackened out, but the first letter of their last name was given.

Images of the two pages with the information provided in response to the request for the recordings can be viewed in the online version of this article. The Times News edited the name of the person who received the benefits of the special trust fund.

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