Bentonville School Rezoning Upsets Some Parents With Special Needs Children

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BENTONVILLE (KFSM) -- Bentonville students are out for the summer, but dozens will be going to different schools when they return in the fall.

Some parents with children who have special needs said they want their kids to stay in the same schools.

Laine Harper said her 6-year-old son Leighton is autistic and had a heart transplant. He just finished kindergarten at Sugar Creek Elementary, but in the fall he will be going to R.E. Baker Elementary.

His mom said it took him nine months to get used to going to school four hours a day and she is worried about starting the process over at a new school.

Harper said she understands that change is a part of life, but this is one change she wishes she did not have to make.

"His life is short. I know it is short," said Harper. "The change that is going to be the biggest is the day I do not have him anymore, and that is a huge change for me to even have to think about."

She had Leighton's doctors send a letter to the district saying it would be best for his mental and physical health if he was not moved, but she said it did not make a difference.

Christina Kitterman can relate to the Harpers. Her son Logan has cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus.

"He has had to start all over a lot of times in life," she said. "To throw him back down to a place where he does not know -- where he has to start all over again with kids and teachers -- it brings a lot of anxiety."

The rezoning means Logan will have to go to the new Bentonville West High School, instead of Bentonville High School. Kitterman took her case to the superintendent, the Bentonville School Board and even the governor's office, but did not make any progress.

"We never got to sit down and talk to anybody," said Kitterman. "It was just a matter of black and white: no."

According to Bentonville School District Spokesman Paul Stolt, the decision to move Leighton and Logan was a matter of policy. He released the following statement:

"It is the practice of Bentonville schools to consider requests for students with special needs based on the needs of the child. If the services a child requires are available at their zoned school, they will attend their zoned school."

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