Polk County parent gets trespass ban from school after social media post

By Stephanie Claytor, Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, August 18, 2017, 12:47 PM EDT

The Lakeland parent who spoke out against a $100 "front of the lunch line" pass at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy has now been banned from all Polk County School Board properties, including his son’s school.

  • Tresspass warning issued Aug 16
  • Parent wanted to expose program to the media
  • Program called "clerical error" by Parent Teacher Student Association

Three law enforcement officers issued the trespass warning to parent Chris Stephenson Wednesday afternoon at his home.

"I was irritated,” said Stephenson, who said he had an idea why they were at his doorstep.

Stephenson said he believes the warning has something to do with his exposing to reporters the school's lunch line pass program, a program that was never implemented. The notice of the program was called a “clerical error,” by the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association, who sent the notice informing parents about the program during the school’s orientation.

News stories about the program made it all the way into the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom.

"I knew this was almost a kind of retributive move by them,” explained Stephenson, referring to the trespass warning issued to him a week later.

Lawton Chiles Middle Academy Principal Brian Andrews told us that's not the case.

"To me, this is apples and oranges," Andrews said. "We don’t believe in retribution. We're not about that. I don’t have time for that quite frankly."

Andrews said he had moved on from the lunch line pass issue after he notified parents the program wasn't approved.

Then, the morning the warning was issued, he said he learned about a public Facebook post by Stephenson where he stated using explicit language he was ready to burn the school down. Andrews said the decision came after consultation with law enforcement.

"It was deemed credible enough and serious enough to issue a trespass warning," said Andrews.

Stephenson said he didn’t intend for his comment to be interpreted literally.

"It's a fairly common idiom that people use on occasion, like using 'raining cats and dogs', and 'hold your horses' things like that,” Stephenson explained.

Like his son, Stephenson said he's autistic and has asperger syndrome, which causes him to use blunt language.

"I still do not have any hard feelings for the school," Stephenson said. "I understand the position they're coming from. I think it's stupid, personally. But I can understand that selective editing does what it does. I would just like it dropped and move on."

His main concern now is being able to attend his son's individualized education plan, or IEP, meetings at the school.

Andrews said arrangements would be made if necessary, and though he's never spoken to Stephenson, he would like to have a conversation with the parent to resolve the issue. He added that it was the first time in four years he'd ever had to issue a trespass warming to a parent.

“I’m not going to allow him not to be involved in his son’s educational process," Andrews said. "Again, we started an ESE class this year on campus. First one ever. We take care of all of our kids, especially special needs. So, in the event there is a meeting, we’ll make arrangements in an environment that we will dictate and enable him to be involved in his son’s education at this point."

The school district did make an exception to allow Stephenson to pick up and drop off his son at school, as long as Stephenson remains in the car line and stays in his vehicle.

Stephenson, meanwhile, said he has reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union for help.