Attorney Michael Braun filed the lawsuits on behalf of two siblings at Rutland Elementary School in Mt. Juliet and a Tuckers Crossroads School student due to denial into the district’s Kids Club, a childcare service offered to district parents.
Braun filed a dismissal this week of the lawsuit regarding the Rutland Elementary siblings, which stated they were denied enrollment to Kids Club for reasons associated with their disability, which included toilet training, sensitive hearing, risk to run away and more.
The active lawsuit states an autistic Tuckers Crossroads student was denied enrollment into Kids Club because she is not fully toilet trained due to her autism. The lawsuit claims Wilson County discriminated against the student and violated Title II of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990, which states public entities must make services, programs or activities accessible to individuals with disabilities.
However, public entities are not required to take any action that would “result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of a service, program, or activity or in undue financial and administrative burdens.”
Jennifer Johnson, Wilson County Schools spokesperson, said the district currently has disabled students enrolled in Kids Club and does not discriminate.
The district’s Kids Club policy states, “Kids Club cannot provide service to children who require one-on-one supervision or assistance on a routine basis.”
“This policy would apply to anything that might require individualized supervision,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the policy is needed for cost and affordability for parents.
“Contrary to the statement that has been made repeatedly in this lawsuit, Kids Club does not receive any federal funding. As a matter of fact, there’s no local or state funding either,” Johnson said.
Johnson said Kids Club parents pay a weekly fee for enrolled children and the money generated by the fees pay for the program’s operating costs.
“If we were to start hiring teachers to provide individualized care, the operating costs would go up exponentially, rates would have to be increased for all parents and, eventually, the program would no longer be financially self-sustaining,” she said.
Johnson said the policy was added in wake of a 2012 complaint against Wilson County Schools at the direction of the Office of Civil Rights.
In 2012, the Office of Civil Rights found the district’s denial of an autistic child into the Kids Club program did not comply with federal law. Consequently, the district entered into a resolution agreement with the Office of Civil Rights, which allowed the office to monitor the implementation of changes to the district’s policy and procedures relative to Kids Club.
“Not only have they seen our policy, but they had to sign off on it and give their approval before it was ever added,” Johnson said.