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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