Man Pleads to Keep Special Needs Son at Hundred
Wetzel County resident Earl P. Stevens pleaded before the Wetzel County Board of Education Monday evening for his son to be able to continue attending Hundred High School.
Stevens explained to the board, and public members in attendance, that the Wetzel County Board of Education’s position requires “severely” affected special needs students from Hundred High School, Valley High School, and Paden City High School to be placed at Magnolia High School.
Stevens explained the placement of a special needs student “is legally determined in an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and is supposed to involve the input of parents, the student (if appropriate), the county administrator, the local school administrator, the case manager, the special education teacher, a regular education teacher (if the student is so involved), the therapists who provide services, and any one invited that provides services or input relative to the decisions that are formed into goals and specific ways to implement the achievement of those goals in educating a student.”
Stevens said a meeting is scheduled for July 28, for his son, Roy Stevens.
Earl said the board administration had requested the meeting to change Roy’s placement from Hundred High School back to Magnolia, despite Roy having a current IEP valid until January of 2016.
Earl provided a history of his son’s studies at Wetzel County Schools. He stated that the Stevens’ have had “a good relationship with Wetzel County Schools for the past 13 years involving Roy’s education.”
Roy began his studies at Long Drain School for one year of preschool. He transitioned to LDS from the birth to three program. Roy had a second year of preschool at the Wetzel County Center for Children and Families, a location requested by his parents. “We are grateful!” Earl noted.
Roy was then enrolled at New Martinsville School for kindergarten through seventh grade. At the end of the seventh grade, the Stevens started experiencing issues in getting Roy out of bed in time to get on the bus at 6:45 a.m. in Hundred and then ride for an hour one way to get to school. Earl explained his son is required to be strapped into a five point harness, in addition to a seat belt, as he rides in a specially rated stroller that provides support for his neck.
Earl said “most things went well for the first few weeks” upon Roy’s enrollment at MHS as a freshman. Then Roy began having repeated episodes of profuse sweating and low blood pressure, which required the school nurse and then his mother traveling to school to take him home.
Furthermore, it became more difficult for Roy to get up in time to get ready for school and catch the bus.
“He missed a lot of school,” Earl explained. “When possible, his mother would transport him later in the day to MHS, a round trip of 70 miles and minimum of two hours time.”
Stevens requested a change in placement to HHS the beginning of Roy’s sophomore year.
“Our request was not for a temporary transfer,” Earl stressed. “However, the county administration said they would grant it on a temporary basis due to Roy’s health issues and his refusal to get up and go to school.”
“His sophomore year at HHS was as phenomenal as his preschool year at the family center,” Earl exclaimed, adding that Roy participated in 53 percent of regular education classes, including food preparation, fitness class, vocational agricultural classes, (including work in the Meat’s lab and greenhouse), as well as computer class, and band.
In regards to band, Earl stated Roy was taught to play the bongo drums and maracas. “Roy performed on stage in the Christmas and Spring concerts at HHS for the entire time. He also performed downtown at the Hundred Community Christmas celebration.”
Roy also became a member of the FFA at HHS. Roy participated in the FFA’s meetings, Ham and Bacon show, the annual FFA banquet, “and he proudly wears his FFA jacket.”
Roy also belongs to the Pep Club; furthermore, he was nominated for Mr. Hundred High during the class tournaments his sophomore year.
“His fellow students and friends made it possible for Roy to participate in every aspect of these events,” Earl said.
Earl said his son blossomed at HHS.
“His reluctance to get up and go to school has diminished but not disappeared,” Earl added.
Additionally, Earl noted that HHS has proven to be the “least restrictive environment” (LRE) for Roy,” which is mandated by law to be considered in a student’s IEP.
Earl, reading from information obtained from the West Virginia Board of Education’s website, explained that the IEP Team must consider several factors when determining the “least restrictive environment” for a student. These factors, which Earl highlighted, included basis of placement, which is described as being placement decisions to be made individually for each student. Services and placement must be based on a student’s unique needs that result from his or her disability or giftedness, not on the student’s category of exceptionality.
Furthermore, harmful effects of placement must be taken into consideration.
Also, a neighborhood school must be taken into consideration, in that a student with a disability must be enrolled in the school he or she would attend if not disabled, unless the IEP requires another location.
Earl explained that his son had the right to be at the school where “his brothers and sisters all attended or will attend.”
“He has the right to be an alumnus of HHS where he lives every day of his life.”
Additionally, Earl stressed that it is 35 miles “for one hour on the school bus in a five point harness for Roy to attend MHS one way. It is one mile and less than five minutes for me to transport him in a regular seat in my vehicle at no expense to the county attend HHS.”
“If Roy’s placement is changed it will be the first time that this county will have taken away the most valuable and successful educational experience of his life to replaced with something that has already proven far less successful for him,” Earl said.
Additionally, Earl pointed out that “There is also a further consideration at stake which has never been an option before.” Earl noted that over the course of 13 years Roy has been in special education in the county, “His mother and I have observed that students that traveled on Roy’s bus missed a lot of school when sent to New Martinsville . . . The practice of requiring special needs students to go to New Martinsville schools creates an environment for home life and student life that is unfeasible.”
Earl said there was no legal reason, federally or state-level, to change Roy’s placement.
“Wetzel County has already met and exceeded all expectations for Roy in his past school year and his current placement. The local administration is not seeking any change, the regular educators at HHS are not seeking any change, the special education teachers are seeking no change, the students at HHS are requesting no change, the parents are seeking no change, the community is seeking no change, and Roy is seeking no change.”
“The Wetzel County Board of Education and its administrators call the shots. If his placement is changed and as parents we contest it, the County office makes the determination.”
Earl explained there were three options on the table, one of those being that Roy remains at HHS where he has just completed “his best year of education since pre-school.” This was named as being the current IEP placement, as well as the family’s preference. The second option Earl named included Roy being moved to MHS with the drawbacks already referred to because of the dictates of the county administration. The third option, Earl said, was for Roy to drop out of school, which would be the family’s option if Roy’s placement was moved to MHS.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Earl said, adding “I’m asking you, for God’s sake and for Roy’s sake, don’t do anything. Just keep it the way it is.”
Several of Roy’s peers also spoke on his behalf.
Andrew King, who is to be a senior the 2015-2016 school year, said he remembered when Roy first came to Hundred.
“Some of the students, we went outside in the morning to help Roy go into the school, just as a welcome from Hundred High School. Roy came in his first day and really didn’t act like he wanted to be there. He knew he was going to school, and I don’t think he really liked school like a lot of the students did. After a couple of days of coming, it got easier and easier. Roy would come in, and he would stand there and wait if someone was in his chair. I consider him one of my best friends.”
King said during one food prep class, “The thing I really loved to see was that we made chocolate chip cookies one day. Roy came in and put his apron on. He came over to one of the bowls and started to mix up the cookies. At the very end of the class, the cookies were done. We gave one to Roy and he loved it. The next day his sister came to school, and she said Roy made cookies that night. I think that really means a lot. It shows that Roy was able to absorb something, because it was a positive experience. I think that was good for him”
“Another thing, Roy ran for Mr. Hundred High School. The student who won the title, gave the title to Roy. You can just see the happiness on his face and the smile in his eyes, that we made a positive impact on Roy. Roy made a positive impact on us. Taking Roy away from Hundred High School, it wouldn’t be Hundred High School. It would be just another high school.”
Holden Moore, student at Hundred High School, also spoke of Roy’s impact.
Moore said Roy was nervous like anyone else, starting to school. “We helped him walk to class. We helped him get in that routine. Then he started to grow with us. He got out of the car by himself. He knew what classes to go to. He worked in the Meat’s lab and worked in the greenhouse.”
“Taking Roy away is a total injustice,” Moore said, adding that young people are taught about injustices and fighting injustices. “Taking Roy away from us, is the absolute definition of an injustice.”
Casandra Henderson, a 2015 Hundred High School graduate, also offered her views on the matter.
Henderson said she never got the chance to meet Roy until the most recent school year; however, since his arrival at HHS, “he knows every student at Hundred High School. We are a small school. Roy is able to interact with everyone. At Magnolia, he might not have gotten the chance. Now he takes off running down the hallway, waving and saying hi to everyone. He stops by the science class, to let everyone know he is going to lunch.”
“He has made such an impact on everyone,” Henderson continued. “He made new freshmen coming in feel so much more welcome. They meet Roy, and they have a friend off the bat. I know one boy, a freshman, who lost his dad. The day he came back to school, he was so depressed and so heartbroken. The one person that made him smile that day was Roy. Roy was in Ag class with him, and Roy made a connection with him, just by being with him.”
Henderson said she is going to study occupational therapy in college.
“I got the chance to work with Roy,” she explained. “I learned sign language with him and other students also got the opportunity.”
“Having him at Hundred and having this experience is so much of an impact on us and him,” Henderson said. “He has taught us so much. He is a teacher. He’s not just a learner, but a teacher. I really hope you guys can make this decision for us and keep him at Hundred please.”
Board President Mike Blair thanked the three students, as well as Earl, for their time. “We will take the matter under advisement,” he said.