Coffee County Schools will pay $200,000 for a settlement involving a special needs child.

The funds will come out of the schools’ general fund and will not be covered by insurance.

On Monday, Aug. 12, the school board voted to approve an amendment to the county schools’ budget to cover the $200,000 settlement.

“This particular budget amendment is for the movement of $200,000 from the fund balance,” said Director of Coffee County Schools Charles Lawson. “This $200,000 is related to a settlement that was agreed to in the past by the board for an issue involving a special needs child.”

Chuck Cagle, the school board’s attorney, was involved in the process, said Lawson.

“When the board agreed to that settlement, Mr. Cagle was here to make sure you discuss what could be discussed without violating any confidentiality and to make sure you follow legal requirements,” Lawson said. “At that previous board meeting, the school board agreed to a settlement of $200,000 for that particular legal case.”

Lawson recommended the approval of this amendment.

“This vote is to transfer the money from the fund balance – the first step is the approval of the school board,” Lawson said.

The next step in the process is presenting the amendment to the Coffee County Commission. The commission will have to agree “in order for us to move (the money) from the fund balance and utilize it for this particular settlement,” according to Lawson.

School board member Pat Barton made the motion to approve the amendment. Esther Sims seconded.

“We don’t have any choice,” Barton said. “We have to do it…we will have to be cutting a check, and we will be in trouble if we aren’t on time cutting that check.”

Insurance will not pay for this settlement – the funds will come out of the county schools’ budget.

“I am troubled by incompetence costing us this amount of money,” Barton said.

“I feel the same,” said member Freda Jones.

All present members approved the motion. Member Shannon Duncan was absent.

Refusing admittance

The lawsuit stems from refusing admittance to a special needs child, according to Barton.

The decision to refuse admittance was made by the previous director of schools LaDonna McFall.

McFall did not make the school board aware of the situation, said Barton.

Board members learned about the situation from Cagle.

“We were advised by our attorney to agree to the settlement or it could potentially cost us more,” Barton said.

Confidential matter

The lawsuit was filed with the Tennessee Department of Education, according to Cagle.

“All the records in this matter are covered under three different sections of federal law and they are all deemed very confidential, particularly since this is a special needs child,” Cagle said on Aug. 14.

The terms and conditions, except the amount of the settlement, are confidential.

“The lawsuit was filed with the State Department of Education – all special ed lawsuits are filed with the State Department of Education,” Cagle said. 

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