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Advocates File Complaint Against District Over Use of Walker

An advocacy group filed a complaint this week against the New Caney school district in Texas because the district won't let a 5-year-old student with cerebral palsy use her walker at school.

The girl, LaKay Roberts has been in preschool in New Caney for two years. She uses a combination of a walker and personalized wheelchair to help her get around.

Her education plan, worked out between district staff and LaKay's family, says that among her goals is one to "increase her balance while walking in walker," the Austin-based advocacy group Disability Rights Texas says. LaKay's doctors and therapists say she needs to use her walker as much as possible to become less dependent on her wheelchair and help her legs become stronger.

But LaKay's mother recently learned that typically after arriving at school, LaKay was placed in her wheelchair, a pattern that has repeated itself for most of the last year although the family wasn't told of the school's actions.

After LaKay fell from her walker while walking from the school to her mother's car in February, a school administrator told LaKay's mother, Kristi Roberts that the girl would not be allowed to use the walker, as they did not consider it safe, Disability Rights Texas said. And after a meeting about LaKay the same month where the use of the walker and forearm crutches were discussed, Ms. Roberts got a notice that New Caney "refuses to implement the use of the devices pending further evaluation."

"New Caney ISD has drastically limited this little girl's independence and mobility by refusing to allow her use of a walker and in failing to provide her with an educational program and services that could help improve her ability to move around independently," said Dustin Rynders, the supervising attorney at Disabilities Rights Texas.

"As a direct result of the school district's refusal to allow LaKay use of the walker and to provide her with travel training since at least April 2011, her overall mobility improvement has been stunted," he said in a statement. "The New Caney ISD must fulfill its obligation under federal law to enable LaKay to enhance her walking skills while on school grounds. They must do so, and we will see to it that they do."

The group filed a complaint with the Texas Education Agency over the issue, its second against New Caney this year. In March, the group filed a complaint against the district for its use of restraints and seclusion with children with disabilities.

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