Complaint Filed Against New Caney ISD on Behalf of Student Denied Use of Walker

Posted on

April 10, 2012

Dustin Rynders
Supervising Attorney

AUSTIN — Disability Rights Texas has filed a Texas Education Agency complaint against the New Caney Independent School District (ISD) for denying a 5-year-old student with cerebral palsy the use of her walker at school despite her doctor’s written approval for use of the walker, as well as the district’s failure to provide appropriate travel training for at least a year without the mother’s knowledge.

“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, supervising attorney at Disabilities Rights Texas (DRTx), the legal protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities in Texas.

“The New Caney school district is in violation of a host of federal laws,” explained Rynders, referencing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act among those laws designed to protect the rights of his client and other people with similar disabilities.

DRTx filed the complaint on behalf of LaKay R., a 5-year-old preschool student with cerebral palsy who uses a combination of a walker and personalized wheelchair for mobility. LaKay, who has attended the Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities at Kings Manor Elementary School in New Caney ISD since 2010, is eligible to receive special education services and supports under IDEA.

In April 2010, New Caney ISD held an Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) meeting in which committee members developed an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for LaKay that included the goal to “increase her balance while walking in walker.” The board-certified pediatrician and board-certified pediatric rehabilitation specialist who treat LaKay both have agreed that she needs to maximize use of her walker and become less dependent on her wheelchair to help her legs become stronger.

During a follow-up ARD meeting in February 2011, LaKay’s mother asked the school to provide a weekly log of when and where the walker and wheelchair were used in school. In the year that followed, the mother received only one log.

In spite of the approved IEP and doctor’s and therapist’s recommendations, it appears that beginning in April 2011 the New Caney ISD unilaterally and without notice discontinued LaKay’s use of the walker at school, diminishing any progress in her mobility. LaKay’s mother was never notified that use of the walker had been suspended. Only after the fall did an administrator acknowledge that the school had not allowed LaKay to use the walker.

In early February 2012, LaKay fell from her walker while walking from the school to her mother’s car. The minor fall was the result of the walker not being properly locked into place, but LaKay was not injured and LaKay’s mother never blamed the school for the fall.

Following this incident, a school administrator informed LaKay’s mother that the girl would not be allowed to use the walker, as they did not consider it safe. The same month, while meeting with a school official, LaKay’s mother learned her daughter had been routinely placed in a wheelchair upon her arrival at school throughout the previous year.

At the annual ARD meeting in February 2012, LaKay’s mother asked the school to help facilitate LaKay’s use of the walker, as it had agreed to do in past years, and also consider the use of forearm crutches. Following the meeting, she received written notice that the district “refuses to implement the use of the devices pending further evaluation.”

“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,” Rynders said. “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.”

This current complaint marks the second that DRTx has filed against New Caney ISD in as many months. In March, the advocacy agency filed a complaint against the district for its punitive and abusive restraint and seclusion of children with disabilities in district schools.

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Disability Rights Texas is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Texas. Our mission is to help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law, ensuring their full and equal participation in society.