A West Virginia couple says they are continuing their fight to get their son, who has Down syndrome, enrolled in a high school near their home.
Until then though, 17-year-old Roy Stevens has had to drop out of school.
“We dropped him out, so he became Wetzel County's newest drop out,” Roy’s father, Earl Stevens, told WTRF recently.
Roy and his wife, Karen Stevens, want their son to attend Hundred High School, which is about a mile away from their home.
But, according to a previous story from WTRF, students in Wetzel County with “severe” special needs are expected to attend Magnolia High School, because, the school system says, the school is better equipped to handle students with special needs.
The problem, the family says, is that Magnolia is about an hour from their home. Hundred High is only a mile from their house.
While enrolled at Magnolia during his freshman year, Roy would reportedly have a hard time getting up early enough to catch the bus for the long trip to school. Karen said she would drive her son herself — a two-hour round trip — on some occasions. But still, Roy missed a a good deal of school.
Karen said the drive time to and from Magnolia is not just an inconvenience but a health concern too.
“They'll call you from the school saying he's sweaty, nauseous, and his blood pressure dropped,” she said. “You can't push him because you don't want that to happen again, its unbearable. That's why we stand by our decision, because it's a risk we cannot take.”
The family said Roy, who is currently a junior, grew disinterested in school while at Magnolia. They got a temporary reprieve to allow him to attend Hundred High last year, he reportedly flourished there.
Earl and Karen added that at Hundred High, half of Roy's classes were regular education classes and he joined clubs and activities, including the school band.
Karen also said that attending a school closer to home has made Roy feel more like a member of the community.
“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,” she told WTRF. “And as Roy transitions into adulthood, that's the greatest thing for him where he lives.”
The details of why Roy is no longer able to attend Hundred High are not clear. The Wetzel County Board of Education did not comment on his case specifically, but told WTRF last month that they will continue to follow the state’s policy when it comes to students with special needs.
“Until there is a consideration of letting him back in Hundred High School, he's probably not going to go back to school period," Earl told WTRF recently.
The family has filed a complaint with the West Virginia Department of Education.
The subsequent investigation into the case could take up to 60 days, WTRF reports. Once completed the Stevens will be notified as to whether or the not the state board will uphold the county’s decision.