State pays $185K to settle special education lawsuit

The state Department of Education has agreed to pay $185,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by the parents of Luka Hyde, a 12-year-old boy with Down Syndrome, reports the Times-Free Press.

Deborah and Greg Hyde filed a lawsuit against the Hamilton County Department of Education and the Tennessee Department of Education last year after being told their son would be removed from his class at Normal Park Museum Magnet and placed in a special education class at Red Bank Elementary.

On Tuesday, a settlement for $185,000 between the Hydes and the state was approved by Magistrate Judge Susan K. Lee. It is expected to be formally approved by the court in the next couple of weeks.

If approved, the Hydes plan to set aside a large portion of the money for Luka’s college fund. They want their son to have every opportunity, and they plan to make it possible for him to receive a postsecondary education at Vanderbilt University’s Next Steps program for students with disabilities.

“We knew if he was segregated [in a special ed class] what would happen,” Deborah Hyde said. “He’d get farther behind and age out of the [school system] and be completely dependent. We want more for him.”

The state’s decision to settle does not impact the lawsuit still pending against Hamilton County, a separate defendant in the case. The state’s settlement follows a previous ruling that found the state did not have an adequate administrative complaint process for parents, which is required by federal law.

Hamilton County Schools attorney Scott Bennett said the state settled because it recognized its own administrative complaint process did not meet the court’s standards.

“The state’s decision to settle has nothing to do with the plaintiff’s claims against Hamilton County,” Bennett said.