Today's Paper Search Latest Core values App Traffic map Listen In the news #Gazette200 Digital FAQ Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles/Games Archive
ADVERTISEMENT

A Huntsville High School student who posted a picture of himself on Instagram holding an assault rifle and wearing a trench coat won't be returning to the school this fall, said an attorney for the student's mother.

The student, who is identified in federal court documents only as K.P., was expelled for a year on March 5 because of the Feb. 24 Instagram post.

His mother, Jessica McKinney of Madison County, sued the school district, claiming in part that her son was being deprived of his right to free speech.

On Thursday, a federal judge denied a motion for a preliminary injunction that would have allowed K.P. to return to school this month, said W. Whitfield Hyman of Fort Smith, an attorney for McKinney.

"The only way he's going to get back in school is if we find different facts than we've found so far and are able to get them in front of the judge to change his mind," Hyman said. "But it wouldn't be this semester, that's for sure."

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks came on the deadline for K.P. to begin cross-country running practice for Huntsville High School this fall, Hyman said.

The fall semester begins Aug. 14. Hyman said the school's first cross-country meet is scheduled for Sept. 8.

Hyman said K.P. could lose scholarship offers to run cross country in college if he doesn't compete during his senior year of high school.

"We were trying to get him back into school," Hyman said, "and the judge ruled among other things that he didn't think we were going to prevail in the case based on the facts he had before him now. ... And even if we do, the damages weren't irreparable -- we're not facing irreparable harm."

Besides wanting to get K.P. back in school, McKinney's attorneys, Hyman and Monzer Mansour of Fayetteville, sued the Huntsville School District for punitive damages in the case.

Hyman said Brooks verbally denied the motion for preliminary injunction during a telephone conference Thursday. There was no written order regarding the motion filed as of late Friday. The case was filed in federal court in Fayetteville.

K.P. can finish his senior year by taking online courses and graduate in the spring, Hyman said. If K.P. moves to another school district, he would be required to sit out for a year before he could compete in cross country, Hyman said.

"The principal said it's highly unlikely that another school would accept him with an expulsion and terroristic threatening on his record," Hyman said, referring to Huntsville High School Principal Roxanne Enix.

Hyman said the facts in the case, for the most part, are undisputed.

K.P. posted the photo on Instagram while at his father's house in Rogers on Feb. 24 -- 10 days after a school shooting left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., according to court filings.

"During the photo shoot, K.P.'s father let him use as a prop a non-functioning AR-15 rifle that his father owned," according to the amended complaint filed in federal court. "K.P. wanted a photo that emulated a 1920's style photo of a man holding a tommy-gun because K.P. found the photo aesthetically pleasing. Because there was no tommy-gun available, K.P. posed with the AR-15 as his father took a photograph."

K.P. posted no words on Instagram with the photo, the filings show.

The next morning, when K.P. saw some of the comments others had posted under the photo, he deleted the post, according to the filings.

One student had written: "When I drop my pencil, start shooting," according to the lawsuit. Another wrote "school shooter meme."

K.P. had replaced the photo Feb. 25 with one in which he was wearing the trench coat but not holding a gun, according to court filings. In the caption under the new photo, K.P. wrote that "nothing bad was intended" with his previous post.

"I'm an ambitious, young enterprising individual, who wouldn't throw my future away for something as pointless as a school shooting," he wrote under the photo. "If I wanted to make an impact I would choose a much more high profile crowd th[a]n a bunch of hicks and jocks who are never going to be anything of particular value."

Enix said she recommended expulsion because K.P. engaged in "terroristic threatening related to school shooting posts on social media," according to the court filings. Enix said she received calls over the Feb. 24 weekend from concerned teachers and crying parents.

According to court documents, Enix said K.P. had disrupted the learning environment by creating a situation where students and teachers were afraid to go to school the next Monday and parents were afraid to send their children to school that day.

Enix said she couldn't discuss the case with a reporter.

The Huntsville student handbook states that students can't use coercion, threat, intimidation or fear, among other things, to "intentionally" disrupt any school mission, process or function.

Another section of the handbook states: "The district's administrators may also take disciplinary action against a student for off-campus conduct occurring at any time that would have a detrimental impact on school discipline, the educational environment or the welfare of the students and/or staff."

McKinney's attorneys argue that those sections of the student handbook are "unconstitutionally vague and overbroad."

Hyman said a settlement conference July 25 wasn't productive.

"We were unable to reach an agreement, so we decided to let the judge rule on the case," he said.

Hyman said K.P. had a 3.8 grade-point average in high school.

A college recruiting website, ncsasports.org, has a profile of K.P. and a "personal statement" from him.

"Running has always been a large part of my life," the statement reads. "When I was little, I would run 20 or even 30 minutes around my house; my mom says that's why I'm good now. As I aged I realized running wasn't just therapeutic and fun, it could also be my future. I decided to join the cross country team my sophomore year and it was the best decision of my life. Now I spend every day working harder to get my times down and keep my grades high. I am prepared to do most anything in order to make running take me places."

Metro on 08/05/2018

Print Headline: School return a no-go for teen after gun post

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsor Content

Archived Comments

  • Nodmcm
    August 5, 2018 at 7:34 a.m.

    What a terrible place gun lovers find themselves in with this case. Just being photographed with an AR-15 rifle gets this kid kicked out of school apparently forever. Yet many want EVERYONE to have an AR-15 rifle or a similar weapon, and to carry them around, to the store and elsewhere. How about a law that no one can have a firearm within 100 miles of any school, public or private? That way, this young man would have never been photographed with a threatening weapon.

  • Foghorn
    August 5, 2018 at 10:20 a.m.

    There appears to be more to this story than just the one photograph. There’s the kid’s statement about how if were going to shoot people, they would be ‘high value targets...not loser kids.’ It also sounds as if he has a history of commenting and making threatening statements via social media. His parents also sound like morons.

  • Foghorn
    August 5, 2018 at 1:32 p.m.

    I’m no expert but I’ve spent a lot of time researching mass shootings, not just schools shootings. Shooters’ parents (or guardians) are almost always complicit, often not just enabling the shooter’s actions, but helping shape them. Even in the case of ‘adult’ shooters like Adam Lanza (Newtown) or James Holmes (Aurora) parents were clearly in a position to prevent what happened. In Lanza’s case, he killed his mom so she’s in no position to make excuses on his behalf, although his father continues to do so. In Holmes’ case, his mom is a fount of ‘it’s someone else’s fault; I just thought he was a typical teen. Someone/everyone else is to blame.’ The fact that this kid’s dad thought it was ok to give him access to an AR15 (operational or otherwise) is a massive red flag. The fact his mom just wants him back in school to leverage his scholarship rather than having any empathy for parents or kids he has menaced also speaks volumes.

  • therevrund
    August 6, 2018 at 7:56 a.m.

    So, it's everyone else's fault; not the little darling's

  • ARMNAR
    August 6, 2018 at 8:21 a.m.

    Poor little ammosexual snowflake.

  • Quackenfuss
    August 6, 2018 at 8:49 a.m.

    Pretty extreme reaction to not much of an offence, at least as explained in the article. Is there information about his threat potential that we weren't given, or is everyone really that fearful now. Don't know, can't tell, but trashing a very good student and student athlete's life over a picture that did not contain an overt threat seems awfully draconian to me.

  • dunk7474
    August 6, 2018 at 9:28 a.m.

    Make the young man Governor, we need one.

  • Knuckleball1
    August 6, 2018 at 11:11 a.m.

    How times have changed..... during my days in High School, nearly every truck and car on the campus had a 22 rifle for shooting cans, turtles, snakes etc, and during hunting season a shotgun or rifle. Guys with Pickups the guns were in a gun rack mounted to the back glass, there was ammo close by in the truck or car. The doors were not locked and anyone could have taken them at any time but nobody did.

    Everyone carried a knife and a lot of days at recess you would find a game of stretch or chicken going on somewhere on campus right in front of the teachers.

    If there was a problem between 2 people it was normally settled by a good old fashion fist fight by the boys and a hair pulling by the girls... most of the time when it was over, it was over with out any second thoughts about doing it again. In fact the combatants normally would be seen on Friday or Saturday night at the local Dairy Queen drinking a coke and talking like it never happened.

    Back in those days no one would have thought about getting a gun out of the truck and using it on someone at school. We were taught that you don't point a gun at someone that if you did and pulled the trigger that it was a bad long term decision for a short time problem because you were mad at someone.

    Reading the paper some days makes one want to go back in time some days...

  • Foghorn
    August 6, 2018 at noon

    I remember those days as well, KB, but they were before school shootings became a thing. And in the case of this kid, it wasn’t just the photo; he evidently posted stupid threatening stuff on social media. Re the photo, however. He was in a trench coat holding an AR15. The Columbine shooters wore trench coats as did the Parkland shooter who idolized them. And the photo was taken shortly after the Parkland murders. He should have realized - I’m guessing he did - the reaction the photo would elicit. If he was too stupid to do so, his idiot parents should have known rather than actually facilitating his stunt. Frankly, they should have kicked his @ss.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT