Student with Down Syndrome forced out of his current high school - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Student with Down Syndrome forced out of his current high school by school board

Updated:
The Wetzel County Board of Education informed 17-year-old Roy Stevens, a junior at Hundred High School, that he can no longer attend Hundred High School. His parents, Earl and Karen Stevens, are fighting the decision. The Wetzel County Board of Education informed 17-year-old Roy Stevens, a junior at Hundred High School, that he can no longer attend Hundred High School. His parents, Earl and Karen Stevens, are fighting the decision.
NEW MARTINSVILLE, WV -

A West Virginia special needs student has been told by school board officials that he can no longer attend his current high school.

The Wetzel County Board of Education informed 17-year-old Roy Stevens, a junior at Hundred High School, that he must attend Magnolia High School, which is about an hour away.

Roy's parents, Earl and Karen Stevens, have repeatedly asked the school board to reconsider.

It all started when Roy's parents noticed he was becoming more disinterested in school while attending Magnolia High School during his freshman year.

In Wetzel County students with "severe" special needs are to be placed at Magnolia, regardless of where they live. The Stevens family lives within the territory of Hundred High School, but the school system believes Magnolia is better equipped to deal with students with special needs.

Magnolia is about an hour drive away from the Stevens' home.

Last year Roy's family was granted a temporary reprieve, which allowed him to attend Hundred. At the time, Roy was having trouble getting up early enough to catch the bus to Magnolia. His family said he ended up missing school on quite a few occasions, despite his flexible attendance schedule. Karen would take Roy to school later in the day on some of these occasions, which was two hours round-trip.

While attending Hundred High School, Roy flourished. He attended more than half of regular education classes, performed hands-on work, and joined clubs and activities, including the school band.

"He made so many friends, and now, when he sees people in town, his friends know him, they're not afraid of him, they tell their parents about him, and their parents know him," Karen said. "And as Roy transitions into adulthood, that's the greatest thing for him where he lives."

But during a school board meeting on Aug. 20, Roy's parents said they were told their son would need to attend Magnolia.

The Wetzel County Board of Education did not comment on Roy's case specifically, but said they will continue to follow the state's policy when it comes to special needs students.

Earl and Karen Stevens filed a petition with the Wetzel County Board of Education, in hopes of keeping their son enrolled at Hundred.

During a board of education meeting on Sept. 8, Roy's family and friends addressed the board to ask if there was anything they could do to keep Roy close to the place he knows as home.

"It's so hard not only on Roy, but for my parents. The drive alone is an hour, while the drive to Hundred is a few minutes. You have to consider what's best for Roy and going to Magnolia is not it," Roy's older brother, Jonathan Stevens told sister station WTRF-TV.

On Thursday, Sept. 11, Roy's truancy days expired. 

"I'm trying to do what's best for my son, but I'm not going to let my wife or myself go to jail over this. We'll have to take Roy out of school," said Roy's father Earl Stevens.

That's exactly what happened.

WOWK-TV sister station WTRF-TV reports that the Stevens have dropped Roy out of the Wetzel County School system. Roy's parents are not giving up. They've filed a complaint with the West Virginia Department of Education. 

The investigation by the state board of education could take up to 60 days. After that time the Stevens will be notified as to whether or not they will uphold the Wetzel County Board of Education's decision to not allow Roy to attend Hundred High School.

Roy's family are not the only ones who want him to stay at Hundred.

On Aug. 24, students held a peaceful protest to fight to keep their friend and fellow classmate at school. During the protest, community members spoke out in Roy's favor.

Mayor Donna Himelrick said he belongs in the community.

"When he graduates from high school, when he gets out of school, this is where he will live and these are the people who will be supporting him," the mayor said.

This story was updated to reflect new information regarding Roy Stevens' status in the Wetzel County School system.

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