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Las Vegas family battling CCSD over their daughter’s customized wheelchair

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A local family is fighting the Clark County School District over their 6-year-old daughter’s medical equipment.

Gemma Kieger loved attending school at Tobler Elementary, but she only attended school for two days of her 1st grade year.

It’s all because of a dispute over the six year old's wheelchair. Gemma suffers from a condition called Spina Bifida

She depends on forearm crutches to get around most of the time, but when it comes to walking down long hallways or getting around on the playground she needs a bit more assistance.

That's where her customized standing wheelchair comes in, she's used it since she was 3.

"She has full control of her upper body, but from the knee down she has no sensation, so she's not able to independently walks" said Gemma’s mom, Lisa Kieger.

When Gemma started kindergarten Lisa says the school had some concerns about her standing wheelchair.

"The school fought us and told us that the wheelchair was unsafe, that there was issues with her getting around the playground and she couldn't get over thresholds to the door," Lisa said.

Lisa says she insisted her daughter would get the hang of it and just needed to learn how to navigate her new surroundings. She claims the issues were resolved and Gemma completed her Kindergarten school year.

When Gemma went first grade, Lisa claims a physical therapist at Tobler Elementary informed her that they purchased an identical standing wheelchair. According to Lisa, they told her it was mandatory Gemma use it while she was at school, even though Lisa claims she never asked for it.

Lisa refused and said her daughter needed to use her own wheelchair because it's routinely adjusted by her medical team according to her changing condition. However, Lisa says the school's physical therapy department told her they could make any adjustments needed, and it was school policy that students use wheelchairs that the school supplies.

"For someone to act like ‘well it's no big deal, I can just make a few adjustments and we don't need a doctor to be involved in any of this’ that was the part that threw me the most," said Lisa.

Lisa says she asked to see that wheelchair policy for nearly three months, but never received it, Lisa's legal team had also requested a copy.

"They did tell us there was a policy." Said Kelly Venci Gonzalez, the Legal Aid Staff attorney representing the Kieger family.

Gonzalez went on to say, "This is new for us to see the school district forcing this issue and forcing them to use their equipment."

News 3 reached out to CCSD to see if we could get a copy of this policy, but the district informed us that a wheelchair policy does not exist.

After failing to reach an agreement with the school, Lisa opted to remove her daughter from the school's physical therapy program.

At that point, she says the School told her that Gemma could no longer attend Tobler Elementary if she did not participate in the program.

Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada has since filed a complaint against CCSD saying parents have the right to revoke consent for services such as physical therapy. The complaint also claims that Gemma is being denied a free appropriate public education.

We asked CCSD to comment. They declined because this is a legal matter, but they provided the following statement:

"We recognize the often advantageous use of the same equipment a student utilizes in home and in school. We are working to provide the appropriate and most familiar environment in compliance with state and federal law for this student, as we do for all of our students."

Lisa and her family aren’t seeking any money from CCSD in their legal battle, they say all they want is for Lisa to be allowed to attend school using her own medical equipment.

"It's heartbreaking to see someone's independence and their personality and every little thing she loved about getting up in the morning, it's been taken away from her." Lisa said.

Gemma has been home-schooled ever since, with her family hoping that will change soon.

Another mediation with the School is scheduled for Wednesday, October 24th.

News 3 will be following this story closely and we'll bring you updates as we get them.

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