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The Huntsville School District will pay $42,665 to settle a federal lawsuit over a student's expulsion.

But Kylan Pierce will remain expelled for the full 365 days, according to the settlement agreement, which Charles Harwell, the school district's attorney, provided under an Arkansas Freedom of Information Act request.

"The parties desire to resolve their differences and thereby avoid the necessity of any additional expenses of litigation going forward," according to the agreement.

The defendants -- the School District and Huntsville High School Principal Roxanne Enix -- "deny any wrongdoing whatsoever," according to the settlement.

Jessica McKinney filed suit in April after her son, a junior, was expelled March 5 for posting a photograph of himself on Instagram holding an assault-style weapon and wearing a trench coat.

It was free speech, according to the lawsuit -- Pierce was just emulating a 1920s gangster.

He posted the photo on Instagram while at his father's house in Rogers on Feb. 24, 2018 -- 10 days after a school shooting left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., according to the lawsuit.

The next morning, when Pierce saw some of the comments others had posted under the photo, he deleted the post.

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

Pierce posted no words on Instagram with the photo.

The Instagram post disrupted school the following Monday, Feb. 26, according to court filings. Some teachers and students were afraid to go to school that day, and some parents were afraid to send their children to school.

The School Board met March 5 and expelled Pierce, but he was allowed to take core courses online.

Enix wrote that Pierce was expelled for "terroristic threatening of school shooting posts on social media," according to the lawsuit.

"The expulsion at issue was reasonably and rationally related to the school administrator's vital mission to keep students and teachers safe and to maintain order and normal operations within the educational institution," according to a motion filed by the school district's attorneys, Harwell and Matthew L. Fryar, whose offices are in Springdale.

McKinney's lawsuit also alleged defamation and deprivation of due process.

The Huntsville School Board voted Jan. 28 to accept the settlement.

A filing Friday in United States District Court in Fayetteville indicated the case had been dismissed "with prejudice," which means it's a final judgment and the plaintiff can't file another case on the same claim. The case was scheduled for trial in July.

Pierce was a minor when the lawsuit was filed and is referred to as K.P. in that document. He is now an adult and was referred to as K.P. and Kylan Pierce in the settlement agreement.

The lawsuit was filed by attorneys Monzer Mansour of Fayetteville and W. Whitfield Hyman of Fort Smith on behalf of McKinney. They initially requested a jury trial, that the expulsion be overturned and punitive damages.

The $42,665 is to be paid by the School District's insurer by one check made payable to Pierce and Mansour, according to the settlement agreement.

Nobody involved in the settlement is allowed to talk to the media about it, according to the document.

According to a transcript of the expulsion hearing, McKinney told the School Board that her son is a "model student." He has "almost perfect grades," has no discipline issues, has a perfect attendance record and is getting scholarship offers to run track in college, she said.

"All I have to say is this is going to have huge repercussions for his future, and it's not right to make an example out of him when he's a star student and there's plenty of people doing worse things," McKinney said, according to the transcript.

Pierce had replaced the photo Feb. 25 with one in which he was wearing the trench coat but not holding a gun, according to a court filing. In the caption under the new photo, Pierce 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."

State Desk on 02/23/2019

Print Headline: District to pay $42,665 to settle lawsuit over expulsion of Northwest Arkansas student


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Archived Comments

  • wolfman
    February 23, 2019 at 7:08 a.m.

    Number one- assault style weapons shouldn't be available for purchase for the general public. Police and military only need access to those type guns.

    Number two- So they sued for $$. Really? Why? Does money make you feel better now?

    Number Three- He shouldn't have taken the picture AND should've known better to and then post it on social media...right after a school shooting. He may not be so bright after all!

  • PopMom
    February 23, 2019 at 7:33 a.m.

    What kind of parents let their teenager have an assault weapon?

  • Skeptic1
    February 23, 2019 at 8:38 a.m.

    "The next morning, when Pierce saw some of the comments others had posted under the photo, he deleted the post." The knee-jerk reactions to benign, albeit dumb, postings has to stop. How about interviewing the child and doing an "adult" review before incurring thousands in attorney fees on top of the settlement this very poor community cannot afford.

  • NoUserName
    February 23, 2019 at 8:48 a.m.

    "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."
    So, if I was going to shoot you up, I'd pick something more high profile. Yeah, expulsion justified. It's a shame the school decided to pay this POS. Though I understand it would probably be cheaper than going to court. Way to go, mom! You're raising a winner.

  • MaxCady
    February 23, 2019 at 11:37 a.m.

    I'm pretty sure they didn't have AR-15 style weapons in the 1920's. That photo would be considered a chronological inconsistency or anachronism. A Thompson submachine gun would have been more period appropriate. So I'm calling BS on the lawsuit wording.

  • MaxCady
    February 23, 2019 at 1:49 p.m.

    @Pop, the kind of parents that are cowed by their little monster(s).

  • 0boxerssuddenlinknet
    February 23, 2019 at 2:25 p.m.

    we are blessed as our country's founding fathers made sure we as American citizens have the right to free speech HOWEVER I hope this kids parents will teach this young man some manners and what is in bad taste especially after the slaughter of so many young school kids. I'm glad this school acted first for the safety of their school kids but I also hope the boys parents paddle his butt for being heartless and STUPID.

  • Popsmith
    February 23, 2019 at 2:25 p.m.

    That's money out the window for stupid knee jerk reactions. Someone is school administration isn't qualified to do their job.

  • Skeptic1
    February 23, 2019 at 2:39 p.m.

    Popsmith...totally agree.

  • NoUserName
    February 23, 2019 at 3:10 p.m.

    Well, school shooting after school shooting means the schools don't get that luxury. Besides, the expulsion stood.