Yesterday Ellen Seidman at Love that Max wrote about a LaKay Roberts, little girl with cerebral palsy who has been using a walker to get around for three years–but now the Special Education Director at her school wants to ban her walker from school as a matter of “safety.” LaKay’s mother recorded her conversation with the Special Ed Director about why LaKay wouldn’t be allowed to use her walker and put it on YouTube. Prepare to get angry:
Clearly, this school is more comfortable with keeping LaKay strapped in a wheelchair where she is “safe” than it is about helping LaKay learn and develop to her full potential.
The thing that I find particularly twisted about this Special Education Director’s decision about LaKay’s walker is this:
Mr. Special Education Director is breaking the law and his school is probably going to get sued…because he’s worried about getting sued.
When people walk around thinking that lawsuits can strike like lightning at any small accident, they act irrationally–like our friend the Special Education Director who wants to ban LaKay’s walker.
The reality is this: lawyers who represent people who get hurt are almost never paid by their clients. The only way they get paid is if:
- Someone did something legally wrong (or failed to do something they were obligated to do)
- and that caused
- a BIG injury.
So, small or frivolous lawsuits are rarely filed because lawyers want to get paid. And when bad lawsuits are filed, they rarely get very far in the legal system. Those crazy lawsuits you hear about (McDonalds Hot Coffee, for example) are largely myths.
And when people believe the lies about liability and lawsuits–people like Mr. Special Education Director will be able to say, “No LaKay, you can’t walk at school–my hands are tied. It’s the liability.” And a lot of people will accept that excuse. But not LaKay’s mom. Or most parents of special needs kids for that matter.
So here are some guidelines for Mr. Special Education Director about what “liability” worries are justified and what aren’t.
- Confining a child to a wheelchair at school when she is capable of using a walker – clear violation of the “least restrictive environment” requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA Act). UPDATE: It’s also a violation of the American’s with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Pretty much begging to get sued.
- A child with CP who uses a walker at school falls down at play, trips while walking, etc. – the risk of a lawsuit is very low, especially when doctors recommended use of a walker, parents signed off on use of the walker and child had appropriate supervision. The risk that the rare parent who would file a lawsuit would win–very, extremely low.
- A child with CP who uses a walker at school is left unsupervised at the top of a flight of stairs and falls – Mr. Special Education Director has got a liability problem there. Same thing if a child in a wheelchair were left unsupervised at the top of a flight of stairs. The risk isn’t about the walker, it’s having solid supervision.
I think Mr. Special Education Director either has irrational fears of lawsuits and needs to be set straight, or he’s lazy.
He doesn’t want to be bothered with making sure that LaKay has basic supervision with the use of her walker so he’s clinging to “safety” as a way to avoid doing his job.
Fortunately, the IDEA Act says he can’t do that. The school MUST step up and let LaKay learn with her walker. Failing to do so is a violation of the law–and a great way to get sued.
When was the last time you were told things had to be a certain way because of “liability”? Do you think it was justified?
- To go to school with Cerebral Palsy at 5 years old, your a “Liability” & Walker’s At School are “unsafe” (thehandiestone.typepad.com)
- A school bans a kid with cerebral palsy from using her walker, a mom takes action (reeniesruminations.blogspot.com)