Judge dismisses student’s lawsuit against KCS over chewing gum, eating food

The court granted the Knox County Board of Education’s motion to dismiss the case Friday.
Published: Apr. 17, 2022 at 2:43 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 17, 2022 at 7:08 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against Knox County Schools over chewing gum and eating food in class.

The lawsuit, filed by Jane Doe in February of 2022, a ninth-grader who attends L&N Stem Academy, stated the student had a medical condition that made it difficult to pay attention when hearing chewing sounds, according to court documents obtained by WVLT News.

The documents said Doe had Misophonia, described as “an extreme reaction to hearing normal sounds.” The documents alleged that Doe suffers “extreme distress” when she hears the sounds of chewing and “must escape.”

The representatives for Doe, the same firm involved in the ongoing mask suit against KCS, alleged that the Americans with Disabilities Act gave Doe the right to request the policy change.

“Disabilities come in all shapes and sizes, and so do reasonable accommodations,” the original suit stated. “Knox County Board of Education’s written policy states that students with disabilities are entitled to equal opportunities and it cites the ADA.”

According to the documents, Doe’s family had made several requests to L&N Stem Academy, asking them to ban eating and chewing gum in class, something commonplace in educational settings. The school’s current policy gives the right to enforce food and gum rules in classrooms to the teachers themselves. Instead, the documents said, the school told Doe to forego some of her classes in favor of taking more study halls.

A motion stated that the plaintiff, through her parents, filed the lawsuit under ADA but not the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Due to this, documents state that the plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies under IDEA.

“Because the crux of Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint ‘seeks relief that is also available under’ the IDEA, the law required her to ‘exhaust the IDEA’s administrative procedures’ before filing suit,” court documents stated.

The court granted the Knox County Board of Education’s motion to dismiss the case Friday.

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