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D.T. v. Sumner County Schools

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

November 8, 2019

D.T., a minor; B.K.T. and B.H.T., parents, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
Sumner County Schools; Vena Stuart Elementary School, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued: October 23, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee at Nashville. No. 3:18-cv-00388-William Lynn Campbell, Jr., District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Robert C. Thurston, THURSTON LAW OFFICES LLC, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, for Appellants.

          Edmund S. Sauer, BRADLEY ARANT BOULT CUMMINGS, LLP, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellees.

         ON BRIEF:

          Robert C. Thurston, THURSTON LAW OFFICES LLC, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Michael F. Braun, Brentwood, Tennessee, for Appellants.

          Edmund S. Sauer, E. Todd Presnell, Kristi W. Arth, Casey L. Miller, BRADLEY ARANT BOULT CUMMINGS, LLP, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellees.

          THAPAR, J., delivered the opinion of the court in which CLAY and NALBANDIAN, JJ., joined. NALBANDIAN, J. (pp. 6-7), delivered a separate concurring opinion.

          Before: CLAY, THAPAR, and NALBANDIAN, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          THAPAR, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

          How and where to educate their children is one of the most important decisions parents face. But the state also has an interest in how and where to educate children. This case presents a conflict between those two interests. At this stage, we do not determine who is right. The question before us is about timing. D.T.'s parents asked for immediate relief but haven't shown that their injury is imminent. Thus, the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied them a preliminary injunction. We affirm.

         D.T.'s parents were concerned that their son, who has autism, was not getting an appropriate education in the Tennessee schools. So they removed him from public school and placed him in a private therapy program, where he improved. But as a result, they were convicted of truancy. D.T.'s parents faced an unwelcome choice: risk D.T. regressing at his old school or risk further prosecution.

         They found a third option, at least temporarily. They enrolled D.T. in a state-approved private school and a private therapy program. Yet they are unsure whether this will be the best long-term arrangement for D.T., so they want the option of removing him from school again in the future. Thus, they sued the school district and sought a preliminary injunction to keep the state from charging them with truancy again. They argued they had the right to remove D.T. from school ...


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