A primary school in Bristol has asked a blind pupil to temporarily stop using her walking cane due to health and safety concerns.
Last week, Kristy Hooper was told that her 7-year-old daughter Lily-Grace would no longer be able to bring her cane into school "because it could trip up teachers and other pupils", the Bristol Post reported.
Lily-Grace suffered a stroke days after she was born, leaving her with severe sight impairments. The schoolgirl had been using her lightweight cane at Hambrook Primary School in Winterbourne Down since April, Hooper told the newspaper.
Hooper was "absolutely livid" when a teacher told her Lily-Grace would no longer be able to use her cane on the school's premises, she said.
"When the school told me she can no longer bring her cane into school, I just thought this must be health and safety gone mad," Hooper said.
"She hasn't had any problems with any of the other students, and none of the parents have complained about it – in fact, they have all been very supportive."
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, the school's head teacher, Jo Dent, said "the pupil has not been banned from bringing in their cane".
"We have simply asked them to not use it around school as a temporary measure until we have the chance to meet with the parent and discuss the situation," she said. "It was initially hoped that we would have this resolved within a day or two."
Dent added: "The school's mobility officer raised health and safety issues around the new cane following a recent risk assessment.
"We have to consider all of our pupils, so it is important that we have an opportunity to discuss the situation before we make any decisions. We are very keen to resolve this issue as soon as possible and have been actively seeking to engage with the parent to bring this to an agreeable conclusion."
An earlier risk assessment had been carried out by Sensory Support Service, which concluded that the cane caused a high risk to other people around Lily-Grace.
A spokesperson for Bristol city council told BuzzFeed News that the conclusion of the assessment "recommended that full-time adult support should be adopted alongside the cane until a meeting is held".
A council spokesperson added: "The mobility of individuals is always of huge importance to us and we must stress the risk assessment carried out in this case did not seek to ban the use of the cane but to introduce adult support in addition to its use.
"We are keen to meet with the family and the school to discuss the recommendations in the assessment and figure out a solution that meets the needs of all involved."
On Wednesday afternoon Bristol city council updated its statement. A Sensory Support spokesperson said:
“The Sensory Support Service has never recommended that Lily-Grace should not be allowed her cane, simply that she would need adult supervision whilst she learnt to use it.
“We are keen to meet with the family and the school to discuss the recommendations in the assessment and figure out a solution that meets the needs of all involved. The Sensory Support Service puts children and families at the heart of what it does, providing a high quality intervention service that promotes the achievement, inclusion, wellbeing and quality of life of children and young people with a sensory impairment.”
Fiona Rutherford is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Fiona Rutherford at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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