14 year old sues school to stop classmates chewing gum: ‘I must escape from them’

‘If I do not escape, I become highly agitated (like a panic attack)’ says student suing Tennessee school board

Bevan Hurley
Tuesday 01 March 2022 18:47 GMT
Student suing school over classmate’s chewing near her
Student suing school over classmate’s chewing near her (Getty/iStockp)
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Louise Thomas

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A 14-year-old Tennessee girl with a rare hearing impairment is suing her school district to prevent classmates from chewing gum next to her.

Lawyers for the 9th grade student at the L&N Stem Academy in Knoxville say the condition - known as misophonia - causes common sounds to trigger panic attacks.

“I can only focus on those sounds themselves and I must escape from them,” the girl, known only as Jane Doe, said in the complaint against the Knox County School Board filed in the US District Court for Eastern Tennessee.

“If I do not escape, I become highly agitated (like a panic attack) and I cannot think or concentrate.”

According to the court filing, the student had been a straight-A honours student in her 6th and 7th grades prior to joining L&N Academy at the start of the year.

Her lawyers Justin Gilbert and Jessica Salonus are calling for an immediate ban on eating and chewing in classrooms.

The Independent approached the girl’s lawyers, who said she and her parents are not commenting beyond the court complaint.

The Knox County School Board did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Knox County Mayor and former WWE wrestler Glenn Jacobs described the lawsuit as a “new grievance” filed by the same lawyers responsible for local school mask mandates.

“When I was a kid, chewing gum in class could land you in detention. If these folks get their way, it could land you in federal court,” Mr Jacobs tweeted, adding the hashtag “GumGate”.

According to Psychology Today, misophonia is relatively rare, but mild cases can affect up to 20 per cent of people.

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