Judge Orders Student’s Return

Vilonia School District

A federal judge has ordered the Vilonia School District to follow a state hearing officer’s directive and return a suspended ninth-grade special-education student to classes.

The boy is expected to be back in school today after 2½ months.

District officials were concerned about potentially suicidal and homicidal remarks the boy made on social media and some photographs he posted of himself holding a gun.

The district suspended him on March 2nd, when he was sent home shortly after arriving at school after the principal learned of a social media post the previous night.

The 15-year-old, considered disabled because of brain injuries, is protected by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which requires the district to provide him with a free and public education in the least-restrictive environment available.

Under federal law, the boy’s suspension was limited to 10 school days. However, citing concern for other students and staff members, the district filed a petition March 27th in Faulkner County Circuit Court to prevent enforcement of a “stay-put” provision in the law.

The boy’s parents had the case transferred to federal court, where, after an April 6th hearing, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker, citing safety concerns, granted the district’s request. Her order kept the boy from returning to campus until an expedited state administrative hearing scheduled to begin April 12th could be concluded.

The hearing officer ordered the boy returned to classes on April 25th, saying the district hadn’t proved he was dangerous, but the district defied the order and appealed it to Baker. In turn, the boy’s parents asked Baker to order the district to reinstate the boy.

In an order issued Monday afternoon, Baker granted the parents’ request for an injunction to make the district comply.

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