Have you ever heard of misophonia? This rare disorder, which literally translates to “hatred of sound,” occurs when certain sounds trigger intense and involuntary emotional and physiological reactions. When people react to these sounds, they can experience thoughts of violence or suicide, anger, disgust, irritation, depression, embarrassment, fear, or anxiety. People may also isolate themselves socially to avoid their triggers. Misophonia management includes antidepressants, counseling, ear plugs, sound therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), although some may find it difficult to manage the condition or avoid the triggering sounds.
In February 2021, an unnamed ninth grader from L&N STEM Academy in Knoxville, TN brought a lawsuit against the school. She had previously requested that chewing gum and eating be banned from her classes as it triggered her misophonia. The lawsuit developed after the school failed to enact any changes, which the family’s lawyer argues is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Further, the family believes that the school should act given that they are only asking for restrictions in certain classes, not throughout the entire school. The lawsuit was later dismissed.
Appealing the Decision in an Unprecedented Misophonia Case
According to a report in Knox News, the girl and her family appealed the decision – and an appellate court agreed with them that their case was properly filed and should move forward. The lawsuit’s dismissal hinged on the judge’s belief that the girl should have gone through a process related to the Americans with Disabilities Act prior to filing. However, the appellate court found that this was not needed. The family may now file the lawsuit in district court.
Since filing the lawsuit, the family has removed the girl from L&N STEM Academy; she is now attending a private school. This decision hinged on the family’s concern that the girl would face judgment, bias, or retaliation if she remained at the school. The family is choosing to continue to lawsuit to advocate for others with misophonia or other disabilities.