March 29, 2012 at 8:31 AM ET
Kristi Roberts was stunned when school officials insisted that her 5-year-old daughter switch to a wheelchair from the walker she’d been using for the previous two years. Little LaKay had battled cerebral palsy and epilepsy since she was born, and Kristi had worked hard to get her little girl up out of the wheel chair and walking – she couldn’t believe that the school was now taking away their hard-earned progress.
Kristi explained her position to NBC’s Janet Shamlian.
“If she can walk now, please let her walk,” Kristi said. “Don’t strap her in a wheelchair. We’ve worked so hard. She has worked so hard.”
When Kristi tried to make her case, officials from the New Caney Independent School District weren’t moved. They insisted that because LaKay had fallen down in the school’s parking lot – when she was with her mom – it wasn’t safe for the little girl to use a walker.
The Texas mom wasn’t going to take no for an answer. She recorded a conversation with a school official (with his knowledge) and then posted the conversation on YouTube for the world to hear:
“Basically she can’t use the walker because we don’t believe it’s safe,” the school official explained on the tape.
When Kristi pushed for an explanation, the official got huffy and responded derisively, “We’re gonna not do what the mother wants us to do – be sure to get this on tape.”
Kristi was astounded. “I am a parent and you are an employee that’s supposed to be an advocate for this child,” she said. “And from day one, you have not.”
The school official wasn’t budging.
“It’s up to a court to decide then,” he said.
“Oh, you really want to go there?” Kristi retorted.
“Yes ma-am. Yes ma-am.”
Kristi adopted LaKay at birth and was told shortly after that the little girl would probably never walk or talk. Kristi wasn’t going to stop at that prognosis. She took it as a challenge and worked with her little girl -- and her efforts have paid off.
Kristi says that LaKay’s language skills are developing and for the past two years she’s been using the walker instead of a wheelchair.
For its part, the New Caney school district argues that it has always had LaKay’s best interests at heart. They say they have not yet received her doctor’s OK for the little girl to use the walker without the leg braces she used to wear.
“The decision was arrived at by this child’s special education team was that the child would be evaluated further and that there would be more information forthcoming from her private physicians and therapists to make sure she was being served safely and appropriately before the use of the walker continued,” said the district’s attorney, Paula Roalson.
Kristi vows to continue to fight for her daughter.
“She deserves the best life she can live,” Kristi told Shamlian. “And nobody can define that but her.”
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