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Family Concerned School Has No Full-Time Teacher for Special Needs Children

RUSSELLVILLE, AR -- The Keele's say the district determined Jonathan needs more help, but his is the only elementary school in the district without a full-time special needs teacher. The district's solution: Change schools.
Riley (left) and Autumn (right) Keele
Riley (left) and Autumn (right) Keele
RUSSELLVILLE, AR -- A family in Russellville says it's being forced to choose between education and safety.

Their child attends London Elementary, the only school in its district without a full-time teacher dedicated to special needs students.

For Jonathan Keele, life can be an uphill battle. He was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. He's much smaller than other kids his age, and learning is difficult.

"He needs to have more dedicated time because of his disabilities and his issues," Riley Keele said. For four years, Jonathan has found a sanctuary at London Elementary.  But as children with his syndrome often do, Jonathan is developing new complications as he gets older.

Adoptive parents Riley and Autumn Keele say the learning problems compounded this school year after the district doubled his class size.

"I mean he is just way under what he should be," Autumn said. The Keele's say the district determined Jonathan needs more help, but his is the only elementary school in the district without a full-time special needs teacher.

The district's solution: Change schools.

"To uproot him would do damage to him," Autumn said. "I know it would and basically we got that's too bad kind of thing."

The next closest school is 15 miles away, too far for a child who has daily emergencies. As Jonathan struggles, the parents worry for him and the other handful of special needs students at London Elementary, saying they're not being given a fair shot.

"My son is never going to be the quarterback," Autumn said. "He's not. I know that. He's not going to make Russellville famous by any means, but he still deserves the same opportunity."

The district released the following statement:

"Russellville School District provides a full and varied curriculum to meet the needs of all of our students within the district. Typically, parents in this situation take their child to a school within the district where appropriate services are provided. The district stands ready to provide these services at another building and would provide transportation for the student. The district will continue to monitor the needs of our students to ensure that the appropriate services are provided."

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