The County School Board voted Tuesday morning to appeals an autism lawsuit that has cost the schools some $2.3 million thus far on to the United States Supreme Court.
Officials said they expect it will take about $50,000 more to take the case on to the nation's highest court.
At the same time, board member Joe Conner said a committee will be formed to work toward a settlement of the case.
He said the committee will seek a meeting with the attorney for the Deal family, which brought the suit to get services for their autistic son.
The federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the Deals and refused to reconsider that ruling.
School officials have said it is a precedent-setting case that would mean the schools would have to provide a "Cadillac" program for special education students. They said it could cost the county schools $10 million or more.
Gary Mayerson, attorney for the Deals, disputes that assertion. He said no other similar requests have been filed with the schools.
He said the case could have been settled and the services provided for the Deal child for less than the county schools paid for just one expert witness.
Board member Rhonda Thurman voted against continuing the appeal. All board members voted in favor of working toward the settlement.
Mr. Conner said the two attorneys for the schools recommended proceeding with the appeal. One of those the board met with was Charlie Weatherly of Atlanta. He has been paid some $1.7 million in the case, while experts have gotten some $600,000.
The board met privately with the attorneys for 45 minutes.
Mr. Conner said, “The School Board made this decision based on its concern on how the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court’s decision contradicts the current U.S. Supreme Court standard and could dramatically change how school systems educate children with
“While the school system moves forward with this case, we are also forming a committee to explore a possible settlement that is agreeable to both parties.”
Officials said the school system "continues to comply with all Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requirements as
defined by the Supreme Court standard that requires school systems to provide a reasonable and adequate
education to children with special needs. The school system has also made significant investments in its special education program to provide teachers and staff with specialized training and professional development to ensure students with special needs have an effective individual education plan that blends well within the context of our public schools and IDEA requirements."