NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — A child with severe disabilities is being held back after his parents claim Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) mis-evaluated him.
Thirteen-year-old Landon Falluer is severely autistic and has apraxia of speech, a speech sound disorder.
Landon’s mother says he's been in honors classes his whole life but after moving to Nashville, Metro Schools forced him to repeat the 9th grade.
His mother says the problem is with Metro Schools’ testing.
“I hated school until I found communication,” Landon spelled out on his letter board.
Landon had a major breakthrough five years ago when he started using a letter board because it enables him to communicate. He points to one letter at a time to form words and sentences.
His mother, Angela Falleur, says he had limited interaction before using the letter board.
“Now, he’s able to tell me he wants to study nanobiology and that he wants to take calculus and things like that, and the poor kid was stuck in circles and squares and double-digit addition for years and years,” Angela emphasized.
The Falleur's moved to Goodlettsville in June, and Angela says they made the tough decision to put Landon in the 9th grade again because MNPS wouldn’t accept some of his credits from Florida.
Tennessee required Landon to take a universal screener that assesses all students, but Metro Schools wouldn’t allow Landon to take it with his letter board.
“It’s not fair. It’s like taking someone’s voice box away. It just seemed cruel. As a parent, I felt like it was five steps back,” Angela explained.
Angela says the letterboard is crucial for Landon because he can’t write or use a mouse and he's just learning how to type. She explains the Metro Schools screening exam provided only a mouse and a keyboard.
Angela says Landon couldn't even answer basic problems, not because he didn’t know the answers, but because he had no way to communicate the answers.
Angela asked Landon, “What did you think about that?”
Landon responded, “Humiliated. I was humiliated.”
Metro Schools’ evaluation determined Landon could continue taking 9th grade honors classes, but they enrolled him in intervention courses which are classes assigned to students who lack basic math and reading skills.
His mom says Landon should be in 10th grade honors courses, and she asked that he be removed from the intervention courses.
“When I asked for him to be dismissed from the tiered intervention, we were told he would be considered truant and that it would affect his GPA because they would fail him in those courses,” Angela said.
The former state assistant commissioner for special populations, Theresa Nicholls, tells FOX 17 News that Landon’s screening test isn’t even designed to determine which courses he should be taking.
“If you’re using an assessment to identify a student’s needs, then no, you shouldn’t be using that same assessment to place a student into a class,” Nicholls explained.
After a hearing before the Tennessee Department of Education, Metro Schools allowed Landon to take the screener with his letter board and removed him from intervention courses.
FOX 17 News’ Kaitlin Miller requested an interview with Metro Schools to see what they’re going to do to prevent this from happening to other students, but MNPS declined the interview request claiming they can’t go into specifics about a student due to state and federal student privacy protections.
The Falluer family says they’re now having problems getting Landon fairly evaluated for eligibility for his Individualized Education Program (IEP), which is required by the state to give him access to special education services.
They have an eligibility meeting with his support team on Nov. 30.
You can submit your Crisis in the Classroom tips to email@example.com or by calling our tip line at (615) 266-4149.