Do Children With Special Needs Have Rights? The Story of LaKay Roberts and Gary Lemley in New Caney
Adorable LaKay Roberts Learning to Walk (and the words of the director of special education)
What Do You Think?
Do you think that the school district had the right to deny LaKay the right to use her walker?
©LaDena Campbell 2012 aka justateacher
LaKay Roberts is a five year old in the New Caney Independent School District. Gary Lemley is the director of special education in that same district. These two were brought together because LaKay has cerebral palsy. She uses a wheelchair do go long distances and when she is tired. She uses a walker the rest of the time. Or, until recently, she did. Until she fell while in the parking lot with her mother. Under her mother’s care. Then, Mr. Lemley decided that LaKay could no longer use her walker. He deemed that it was not safe for her to use it because she fell. Now, I don’t know the entire story. I only know what I read in a blog called Love That Max. The woman who writes this blog writes about special needs for a variety of blogs and magazines and other sites.( http://www.lovethatmax.com/2012/03/school-bans-kid-with-cerebral-palsy.html ) She also has a son with cerebral palsy. But what I read disturbed me. What I heard in the recorded audio portion of the video here really disturbed me. And I took action. I wrote to the district and expressed my concerns. The following is the email letter I sent.
To whom it may concern:
I just read a story about little LaKay Roberts, a five year old with cerebral palsy who attends school in your district. I read that school officials, including special education director Gary Lemley, have forbidden LaKay from using her walker while at school. This is a tool that people who specialize in cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities have deemed necessary for LaKay. This would be like forbidding a student who is blind from using braille or a student who has a behavior disorder from having counseling. It would be the same as forbidding Mr. Lemley from using the vehicle he drives to school or his office to do his work. It would be the same as taking the legs away from a student and no longer allowing him or her to walk. This is discrimination against a child with special needs. I understand that LaKay fell while in the parking lot at school. I do not know if this was the first time or the one hundredth time that she fell. I do know that children fall. Children without special needs fall. It happens. Sometimes children skin knees or bump their little heads. It doesn't mean that we stop them from walking. It means we kiss their "boo-boos" tell them that they will be okay and move on about the business of learning. On occasion, the "boo-boo" may need medical attention. This happens with children who have special needs and children without. When my children were small, a little girl broke her arm while playing tag on the playground. She tripped and fell and landed in such a way that her little arm broke. The school, the principal and the teacher did not tell the mother of that child that she could no longer run...they told her that she had an accident and that they would do what they could to insure that it did not happen again. The mother then cautioned her daughter to be more careful and life went on. A lesson was learned, in a few weeks the arm was as good as new, and everyone was happy.
I am also concerned with the tone of voice used by Mr. Lemley when talking to LaKay's mother, and by his choice of words when speaking to her. Again, I do not know all of the details. I do not know if there have been issues with this parent in the past. But that really doesn't matter. He is a professional, and to blatantly state that the mother does not care for her daughter is stepping over the line. And to speak to her in a condescending tone is just as unprofessional. As a special education teacher, I work with many parents. I do not always agree with their parenting styles. I have, on occasion, POLITELY, suggested things to the parents that might help their child. But never in my fifteen years as a teacher told a parent that they did not care for their child.
I hope that you as a district decide that LaKay can use her walker. She deserves it as much as your child or grandchild, niece or nephew deserves to be able to walk. Think about trying to take away your own child's ability to walk. Think about those first steps they took and of how many times they fell and skinned their knees and bumped their heads. Did you make them stop walking? Did you strap them in a chair or their stroller and never allow them to walk again? No. You just knew that falling was a part of learning to walk and kissed them and stood them back up and told them to try again.
If you do not allow this child to use her walker at school, I hope a great attorney can help your district to understand that this child has the same right to walk as any other child in your school. Stop discriminating against this child.
What You Can Do
If you feel the same as I do – that this child is being denied her basic rights – then do what I did. Go to the district’s website and email them.(http://www.newcaneyisd.org/apps/contact/) Write to the address listed in the video. Show the district that people care about LaKay and her right to walk. Help them to understand that children with special needs have rights, too.