A 15-year-old special needs student in Vilonia returned to school Wednesday after a battle with the district to ban him from campus after the student allegedly made threats in March.
Superintendent David Stephens told the Log Cabin Democrat in March that a parent contacted Vilonia Freshman Academy’s principal about a social media post the male student had apparently made.
The 15 year old posted photos of himself holding a handgun on Snapchat, according to court documents.
Stephens said the student was arrested before school March 2. Vilonia Police Department Chief Brad McNew confirmed that, saying the boy had been charged with harassing communications.
Records showed that the district also filed a restraining order March 27 in Faulkner County Circuit Court against the student, listing in detail the boy's actions prior to the administration’s decision to request he not be allowed on campus or at any school event.
“The photo showed [the boy] with his finger on the gun’s trigger with the hashtag ‘#ILOVEITWHENTHEYRUN,’” the complaint reads in part. “Other video depicted [the boy] with a gun, acting as if he were shooting the gun, and talking about killing. The video showed the word kill. [The male student] also posted a photo of some classmates with the head of one of the classmates circled in red.”
The boy also posted a video of himself with a handgun where he said, “I don’t fight to hurt — I fight to kill,” according to the court documents.
The request to ban to the student made its way to federal court under U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker, who ruled Monday to deny without prejudice the district’s request. The student returned to school Wednesday.
Stephens said the district was disappointed with the ruling but will comply with the court’s decision. He said administrators are working on the “most appropriate program” for the student.
When the LCD spoke with Stephens on Wednesday, he said he was in meetings all day but was checking in with the school and was not aware of any issues or sense of worry from the student’s return.
Stephens sent a letter to parents following the March 2 incident — also mindful of the Florida school shooting in February — addressing safety concerns and plans.
“Weighing the balance between offering the greatest level of protection for our children while still providing them a welcoming, warm and inviting school atmosphere becomes more and more challenging,” he wrote.
Stephens continued and said that the district wanted to assure parents that their child’s safety was always a top priority.
“We regularly review our protocol involving security and safety and procedures and we are currently in the process of taking steps to improve our training for staff,” he wrote.
After the school’s request to ban the student for safety concerns, the boy’s parents made a request that the matter be transferred to federal court because they believed his rights as a student with disabilities had been violated.
In the request, the parent’s rebuttal stated that because the 15-year-old had a disability defined by IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), the student was not subject to the school’s regular discipline policies but should have followed IDEA’s stay-put provision, which requires that students remain in their current educational placement pending the resolution of an educational dispute,” according to the Arkansas Department of Education Special Education Unit ruling on the issue.
In its complaint, the Vilonia School District offered temporary alternatives to ensure the young male was getting his education if he:
• Was restrained from attending classes at the school or other school functions.
• Was placed in a home-bound setting where a district employee could meet with him until alternative placement could be found.
• Was upheld to the home-bound placement until another day treatment facility was located and the 15 year old was enrolled.