Parent considers legal action against Marion Co. school system - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Parent considers legal action against Marion Co. school system

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JASPER, MARION COUNTY (WRCB)- Channel 3 continues our investigation into safety violations at a Marion County school.

For the past 10 years, Marion Academy has housed special needs and alternative students in a building that was not supposed to have children in it.

It used to be an elementary school but in 2001, the Fire Marshal shut it down because of multiple safety violations, including asbestos.

Last month, the Fire Marshal's Office received a tip that classes were still being held there. The alternative students were moved to other schools last month, but special needs students were still being taught there until Wednesday of this week.

The mother we spoke with says she is outraged. She says she simply can not believe the school system knowingly put children, including her own, in a building deemed unsafe by the state.

"How do you know that a building has so many safety violations for 10 years and you keep the children in there?" asks Ann Barnes.

Barnes has a 16 year-old son with autism. She says he has attended the Marion Academy for the past six years.

She will be the first to admit her son was getting quality one-on-one attention in the classroom but it is the old walls of the classroom and the rest of the building that concern her.

"It needs to be torn down," Barnes says. "There's no need for it."

"It's too old, they can't do anything with it," she adds.

Barnes and other parents tell Channel 3 they were shocked when an October report from the State Fire Marshal's Office surfaced, citing more than 20 safety violations, that had not been fixed since 2001.

The Deputy Fire Marshal concluded the report, stating, "Due to the severe nature of the deficiencies in Marion County Academy, I am requesting the educational portion of the building be removed."

"They got the other children out the first day, but the special needs kids? Three weeks!" says Barnes.

Barnes says she feels discriminated against.

The school principal says the specials needs students were not moved right away due to bus transportation issues.

"I couldn't believe it. They've had the bus there, the driver's in the room with the kids. So I don't know why that took three weeks," says Barnes.

When questioned about the safety of the building, Principle Toby Wilson-White maintains its safety.

"If we had ever thought that our children here were in danger, we would have immediately removed them," she says. "We would not have been housing them here."

"I want him to have the same as everybody else's child, and that's all I'm really looking for," says Barnes.

Barnes says she plans on being at the next school board meeting on the 29th to voice her concerns.

She also says she is considering legal action against the school system.

[READ MORE: FIRE MARSHAL'S REPORT]

[READ MORE: FIRST ON 3: School deemed fire hazard; Operates uninspected for 10 years]

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