A Houston school district, New Caney ISD, has said that 5-year-old LaKay Roberts can no longer use her walker at school. LaKay has cerebral palsy and has been using the walker for 3 years. She attends Kings Manor Elementary School in Houston and, as Ellen Seidman of Love That Max writes, a few weeks ago, LaKay’s mother, Kristi Roberts, was informed that her daughter can no longer bring her walker to school by the district’s special education director, Gary Lemley.
Ellen included some of the exchange between Roberts and Lemley in her post and I’m repeating the excerpt because it’s simply outrageous:
Kristi: “Why can’t she use a walker?”
Lemley: “We don’t feel like it’s safe any longer.” [LaKay had fallen in the parking lot when her walker collapsed, while she was with her mom.]
Kristi: “How many kids fall down at recess? Do you make them take their shoes off and buy new ones?”
Lemley: “No, ma’am.”
Lemley: “They’re not using walkers.”
Here’s a video with footage of LaKay using her walker:
Ellen’s son Max also has CP and uses a walker. As another mother of a child with disabilities, I share her disbelief at the special education director saying that LaKay can’t use her walker.
While the school district — and, obviously, LaKay’s parents — have concerns about her safety, the walker is a piece of equipment, a “reasonable accommodation,” that LaKay clearly needs and has a right to under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The school district should be working in conjunction with LaKay’s parents, teachers and therapists to figure out how best to accommodate her disabilities and that does not mean taking away her walker. Doing so is like telling a non-verbal child “sorry, you can’t have your augmentative communication device to tell us that you’re thirsty or have to use the bathroom, just deal!” or, indeed, a child who is near-sighted that “sorry, you can’t have those glasses because they might fall off and break and we’re concerned about the safety of students.”
Ellen says that Roberts would like to sue the school district over the ban on LaKay’s walker but does not have sufficient funds to do so.
Please support LaKay and her family and sign the petition to tell the New Caney ISD school district that LaKay has the right to use her walker in the district’s public schools and programs!
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Photo of LaKay Roberts from a video uploaded by Kristi Roberts