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Why Do School Districts Want to Spend $2.3 Million Rather Than Help An Autistic Boy?
A legal mess in Tennessee has baffled legal experts, parents, and even school employees. why not simply give autistic kids what they need?
Local autism case may go to Supreme Court
Bryan Hahn, Chattanooga, TN
wdef News 12, Tuesday, April 26, 2005


A legal battle that started here in Hamilton County could set a national precedent on how schools serve autistic children.

A local family recently won a lawsuit that could cost the county millions of dollars.

Now, school members will appeal the case to the U-S Supreme Court.

10-year old Zachary Deal suffers from autism.

His parents say he needs one on one attention from teachers to develop his mind.

Zachary's family says Hamilton County Schools failed to do that which led to a legal battle dating back to 19-99.

Earlier in the month, the U-S Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the family.

Phillip Deal, Zachary's Father:

"We hoped with the unanimous decision of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that it would have ended here."

Even though School Board Members were criticized for spending 2-point 3 million dollars on the case...they're appealing again.

This time to the U-S Supreme Court.

Joe Conner says they're doing so because the board is looking long term.

Joe Conner, Hamilton County School Board:

"The alternative could very well be a tremendous increase in special education."

"They estimated this program for one child in 1999 at 60-100 thousand dollars."

Conner says that translates to 11 million additional dollars to the school budget.

But Zachary's father Phillip Deal says those numbers are wrong.

Phillip Deal, Zachary's Father:

"Not every child in Hamilton County that has autism needs the same type of services my son needs."

Hamilton County Commissioner Larry Henry who has opposed the board's handling of this case agrees with the family.

Larry Henry, Hamilton County Commissioner:

"It could have been settled for one of the legal expert witnesses they've used for less than 75-thousand dollars."

Now, it will likely take the U-S Supreme Court to put closure to this legal mess that's been ongoing for the past 6 years.

Board Members say they'll attempt to settle with the Deal family before pursuing their appeal with the U-S Supreme Court.

© 2003 The E-Accountability Foundation