5-Year-Old Girl with Cerebral Palsy Told Walker is Unsafe for School

March 27, 2012  |  

Lakay Roberts has been using a walker at New Caney Independent School in Montgomery County, Texas, for the past two years. The 5-year-old has cerebral palsy and needs the device to move around, but after falling in the parking lot because her walker collapsed, the school has said the walker is “unsafe” and she can’t use it in school.

Lakay’s mother, Kristi Roberts, plans to file a suit against the school for denying her daughter use of a device she obviously needs. She likened the incident to a student falling on the playground during a conversation with Kings Manor Elementary School special education director Gary Lemley, and asked whether he asks students who fall during recess to take their shoes off and buy new ones. Lemley responded,

“No, m’am, they’re not using walkers.

“Basically she can’t use the walker because we don’t think it’s safe,” Lemley told her. When Lakay’s mother asks why it isn’t safe, he responded, “I just told you. We don’t feel it’s safe any longer.”

Unless Lakay’s walker has proven to be faulty, this seems like a ridiculous ban. Support for Lakay has been growing strong as word of this situation has spread. Elise Hough, CEO of special needs nonprofit Easter Seals Houston, told KPRC-TV the school district has an obligation to provide a safe school environment for Lakay and other students.

“You don’t tell somebody you trip on your feet so chop ’em off to come to school, you’re safer in a wheelchair,” she said. “For a person with a disability, their assistive technology is like an extension of their body.”

Kristi hopes filing a lawsuit will get the results she’s seeking and that her daughter needs.

“I want Gary Lemley to resign. I’d like an apology, and I would like her to use her walker again and get things changed in the special education department,” she said.

So far, Lakay’s school hasn’t commented on the details of their decision, instead they’ve defending themselves against the recording of the conversation between Kristi and Greg Lemley.

“It is important to know that the video and audio recording at issue was not sanctioned or authorized by the District to be released for public dissemination,” they said in a statement. “Furthermore, the District does not agree that the recording at issue here is a complete recounting of the entire underlying confidential discussion and is therefore neither representative nor accurate towards explaining the District’s ongoing efforts to serve its students.”

They’re going to have to do better than that.

What do you think about this case? Should the special education director resign?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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  • oh really

    damn had to be from Houston..smh! This story is really sad and selfish.

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  • Yvette

    As a mother I totally support Ms. Roberts in her fight for her daughter to be treated as equal to any able bodied child that attends the same school. There are laws in place to defend persons with disabilities but one needs to be an advocate for those who are unable to do so. She needs to take this issue as far up as she can to get equality for her child.

  • Trisha_B

    Why couldn’t they just tell the mom to purchase a better walker, one that won’t collapse instead of saying the little girl can’t use one at all smh

  • JN31

    They never go into detail on how the walker collapsed. She was in the parking lot so maybe their was something that caused it to collapse.

    If the school is so concerned about the safety of this particular walker, then they should help the mother purchase a new one. 

  • Seubanks86

    They also don’t mention why the walker collapsed either.

  • sweettea

    If the walker collapsed then yeah it’s time for her to be fitted for a more appropriate device. If a student falls because their shoes fell apart then they need new shoes before coming back to school. The parents shouldnt be against doing whats best if its a safety issue. She might just need a sturdier walker or maybe crutches instead.

    • Yvette

      How can you say what she may need and should get? You can not just go to the store and pick out a new walker like you do groceries. Insurance put parents through pure hell to get things that children with special needs require. There is nothing wrong with this mother wanting to make her child feel she can attend like any other five year old. Until you have walked an inch in her shoes your words are irrelevant to this story.

  • RedButterfly81

    My cousin is 6 and has CP and needs a walker to get around, don’t see her school saying it’s unsafe. What’s next at that poor girl’s school: ban wheelchairs when one of the wheels fall off in the parking lot?

    • sweettea

      It doesn’t say they banned all walkers just that this little girls walker is no longer up to the task. It collapsed so it must be time to get a new one

      • RedButterfly81

        Did I say ALL walkers, no I did not.

      • Tle272

        Im a personal friend, the walker is up to par, just when they reopened it they “the school” did not secure the latch. Very sad and blames the parent and child.

  • L-Boogie

    This is really sad.  My heart goes out to the mother and daughter.