Chewed Out in Court

Learning denied?

It is the hope that schools may make reasonable accommodations to ensure the success and progression of all students. The Americans with Disabilities Act is an added measure that aims to protect the civil rights of those who may suffer from disabilities or debilitating conditions. In the case of a ninth grade student at L&N Stem Academy in Knox County, Tennessee, there is speculation regarding the level of accommodations needed to allow her to enjoy a complete academic experience. According to the lawsuit, the student has been denied about half of her classroom time and has suffered from emotional and physical exhaustion.

The root to her discomfort is related to a disorder known as misophonia, which causes the child to undergo extreme reactions to the sounds of gum chewing and eating. In addition, the ninth grader also suffers from migraine headaches and hyperacusis, which allow her to experience the intolerance for certain sounds that may be deemed normal or environmental. In the event one of her classmates chews gum or eats in class, the sound triggers the student to want to leave the room. Her inability to endure the sounds forces the child to find solitude in an empty room or outside of the classroom. Her absence from the classroom has been calculated to about 50% of educational time that she should receive.

Despite claims from teachers who contend that there is a policy that prevents them from denying students the right to chew gum or eat in class, the parents of the child challenge that they have never seen an official policy described by the teachers. The student and her parents have asked for the reasonable accommodation to prohibit gum chewing and eating in her classes, however, their request has been denied. According to the L&N Stem Academy administration, which responded on January 3, 2022 to a written request dated December 8, 2021, there is no evidence to support that the rights of the student have been violated.