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Wetzel Board Stands Firm

By Staff | Sep 23, 2015

Photos by Lauren Matthews Above, supporters of Roy Stevens, lower left, attend a Wetzel County Board of Education meeting Monday at Long Drain School. supporters of Roy Stevens stand at the entrance to Long Drain School.

Members of the Wetzel County Board of Education on Monday reiterated their stance to not take action in regard to the school placement of Wetzel County special needs student.

The parents of the student, Roy Stevens, had previously asked the board to allow their son, a special needs student, to continue attending Hundred High School after he had a positive experience there during the last school year.

However, district policy requires severely affected special needs students from Hundred, Valley and Paden City high schools to be placed at Magnolia High School.

In response, Hundred students last month protested in front of their school in support of Stevens. Stevens’ parents and siblings, as well as Hundred classmates, pleaded his case to the school board at several meetings.

Stevens’ parents withdrew him from Wetzel County Schools on Sept. 9, just a day before he would have met the maximum number of truancy days.

During Monday’s meeting at Long Drain School, Wetzel County Board of Education Mike Blair emphasized to the supporters in attendance that by law, school boards cannot interfere with the Individualized Education Program put into place by the student’s teachers, service providers and parents.

“IEP decisions are made by IEP teams alone,” Blair said. “If the parent is dissatisfied of the decision by an IEP team, there are multiple legal avenues for the parents to pursue, but in no case can a school board override or direct an IEP team to do anything. We hope this statement sets the record straight.”

Several community members continued showed their support for Stevens during the meeting, whether it be through signs or T-shirts. Several individuals also spoke to the board in support of Stevens, including his mother, Karen.

Karen Stevens said the family was not a part of Roy’s IEP as they had been in past years. She asked the board to reconsider the district’s centralized education program.

“The board of education is not responsible for Roy’s IEP, but they are responsible for running a centralized program. Look at these programs and see what they do to people who are forced into them when it is no longer good for them,” she said. “You talked tonight of so many updates, so many improvements and so much money to be spent … can we have a little bit of it to update a situation for these kids when your programs no longer works for them?”

In other board of education matters, Treasurer Jeff Lancaster announced Monday night that the board has a budget surplus of $2,938,000. Lancaster suggested the board would be able to grant several of the requests made by the county’s schools, such as possibly the request for electrical upgrades, which was made by Long Drain School. Lancaster said Wetzel County Schools has increased technology countywide but “needs to catch up with electrical upgrades.” Lancaster said the board would discuss the schools’ requests within the next couple of months.

Lancaster credited the budget surplus to the excess levy which is passed by voters. Lancaster said the Marcellus and Utica gas production has beneffited the county. However, when the school receives money via taxes, the state aid decreases. “This Utica and Marcellus really doesn’t do much for us without the excess levy,” Lancaster said.