Hundred Community Protests in Support
Members of the Hundred community and Hundred High School students gathered in front of HHS Monday morning to peacefully protest Wetzel County Schools’ placement of 11th grade special needs student, Roy Stevens. A variety of signs were held by students, making remarks such as: “Stand Up For Roy”, “What About Roy’s Civil Rights,” “Honk 4 Roy,” “HHS Is Roy’s Home,” “Justice For Roy,” and “Roy Brings Joy to HHS!”
When asked about their protest, Roy’s classmates were soft-spoken, yet firm in their stance.
Student and HHS football player Charles Matthews stated that himself and fellow classmates “just kind of went around telling people what was happening and all the football players joined in, then the cheerleaders, and everyone kind of fell into it.”
“We hope to get Roy to be able to come back to our school, and if it takes all week of us standing out here, we’ll do it,” HHS student and football player Gary Zedell said.
Football player Richard Yocum explained that Roy had made a lot of progress at HHS last year.
“He was learning sign language; he played an instrument in the band. He just grew. It seems like he wants to be here. He’s made real friends here, so that’s why we want to keep him here. It’s a better environment here.”
Those are arguments the board of education have heard from Roy’s parents, Earl and Karen Stevens, at previous board meetings, held July 20 and Aug. 17.
Previously, Earl had approached the board at their Monday, July 20 meeting. He had explained that his son, a special needs student had had his best year of education yet after attending Hundred High School the 2014-2015 school year. Roy had been placed at HHS for his sophomore year after having a difficult freshman year at Magnolia High School.
Earl and Karen had requested a change in placement to HHS the beginning of Roy’s sophomore year. Earl explained at the July 20 meeting that the request was not for a temporary transfer, but the county administration said they could grant the transfer on a temporary basis due to Roy’s health issues and his refusal to get up and go to school. Currently, 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.
Earl had 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.”
At the Monday, August 17 meeting, Earl informed the board that on July 23, Child Protective Services knocked on his front door and began an investigation because the board reported Roy’s absences referenced in the July 20 meeting. “The report stated that Roy was absent 69 and a half days and tardy 17 and a half times.”
“The numbers were fabricated,” Earl said. “I hold before you my son’s report card from Wetzel County Schools which shows me as a parent all the information I am given concerning my son’s attendance.”
Superintendent Leatha Williams had questioned Earl at the Aug. 17 meeting concerning his accusation toward the board, asking him what his evidence was that the board was behind the CPS visit. Earl had remarked that he should have said he suspected the board of behind behind the visit.
Board President Mike Blair inquired as to why Roy began attending HHS. Special Education Director Deborah Novotny said it was because Roy had had issues, when attending MHS, with getting up in the morning to go to school. Superintendent Williams suggested the the board go into executive discussion to discuss the matter further; however Earl and Karen declined doing such, stating Roy had yet to eat dinner.
Novotny declined making a comment about the current situation at the Aug. 17 meeting. Williams was also asked her thoughts on the matter. Williams stated she could not discuss the situation because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act; however, she said the board wants what is best for every student in the county.
Karen stated at the Monday morning protest that herself and Earl had attended a six hour meeting Aug. 20 concerning Roy. “We think it had been predetermined, but he was placed at Magnolia High School.”
“They did it all legally,” Earl stated, “but the goal was to set his minutes so high.”
Earl explained that a student has so many minutes in a school week. He said Roy was required to have a certain number of minutes in math, a certain number of English Language Arts, as well as daily living skills.
“The individual that did most of the picking of the minutes hasn’t had Roy in over a year,” Earl stated, adding that the school system would not lower Roy’s minutes.
“We were told that there is a centralized program at Magnolia High School that provides special education services. The county funds it at Magnolia, and therefore, Roy was going to go there.”
“They explained that it wasn’t segregation but centralization. They said it was perfectly legal, and it’s just a fact we are going to have to live with,” Earl explained.
Earl added that all that was needed for Roy to attend Hundred High School was a half-time teacher “or to cut the minutes.”
When asked his opinion on the students’ protest, Earl said he thought the “students are great.”
Hundred Mayor, Donna Himelrick, was also present at Monday’s protest.
“Roy should be here at Hundred High School,” Himelrick stated. “When he is finished with high school, this is where he is going to be living. It’s important that not only him, but the community, have him here.
Earl stated that recently Roy was offered a position at a local restaurant in Hundred, where he could have some on-the-job training.
“They wanted to bring Roy in and teach him to take the napkins and wrap the silverware, but whenever that idea was presented at the IEP meeting, they said he couldn’t do that. They said he had to be taught those skills in a classroom setting by a properly certified educator, and then he’d have to be transitioned in the community to do that.”
“This is where Roy belongs,” Earl said. “These are the people that are going to take care of him. There are ways (Wetzel County Schools) could have let this happen, but they won’t.
Earl said the Stevens’ could move on with a complaint at the state level.
“That takes so man ydays to write and process. The state has 60 days to rule on that. We looked at going to federal court, but it would last five to seven years and that isn’t going to do Roy any good.”
Earl said with the new absenteeism policy, Roy has about 18 days to miss school, including, “this week, last week, and into the next week.” Earl said once those days are gone, the Stevens would be charged at the magistrate court level.
“We’ve had people from Australia contact us on Facebook and say ‘How can the United States have this kind of issue in their education?'” Earl noted. “Our policies are still coming out of the 1990s, and they need to be changed.”
Wetzel County Sheriff’s Office deputies, along with Hundred Police Chief Clay Lunceford were also present at the protest incase of traffic issues. Students did return to the school building at around 8 a.m., in time for classes.