Student In Wheelchair Forced To Sit Alone At Lawrence School

By Ken MacLeod, WBZ-TV

LAWRENCE (CBS) – A 13-year-old Lawrence boy will be reunited with his classmates tomorrow.

It’s not that the youngster hasn’t been at school every day. He has.

But elevator problems have forced him to sit alone — day in and day out.

Khank Tran can help his wheelchair-bound son with some things, but felt frustrated and powerless to end the boy’s isolation at school.

WBZ-TV’s Ken MacLeod reports

“I didn’t know how long he was going to be suffering,” says the elder Tran.

Unable to walk since a freak spinal cord injury, Huy Tran has spent the last five weeks at the Wetherbee School in Lawrence doing his lessons alone in the first floor nurse’s office.

“I get really tired and bored,” says Huy. “I will usually take a nap on the desk.”

That’s because the 13-year-old has been blocked from using the school’s elevator to reach his normal classroom upstairs.

The state ordered 16 Lawrence elevators shut down back in late September — at schools, the library, and senior center — after discovering the city had failed to correct a laundry list of safety violations over the summer.

His dad says day after day of studying in solitary — piled on top of the mystery that still surrounds his paralysis — has made Huy depressed and even angry.

“That silently affected him a lot,” says his father.

“Everyday I wish for the elevator to be fixed,” laments Huy. “So I can go upstairs and see my friends again.”

Interim School Superintendent Mary Lou Bergeron told the Lawrence Eagle tribune that teachers have tried to make sure that Huy didn’t fall behind.

But the elevator repair and inspection process dragged on for weeks — while his dad called and emailed both school and city leaders asking ‘Why?’

“I got upset,” says Khank Tran. “Yes. I said ‘This has to stop!'”

But it wasn’t until late Thursday that state inspectors flashed the green light.

“I can smile now,” says the elder Tran with a grin.

“Yeah, I kind of got excited,” says his son with an even bigger one.

So when Huy rolls up the wheelchair ramp to school on Friday morning, he won’t have to stop at the nurse’s office.

It’ll be onto the elevator and up to class.

Huy isn’t the only Lawrence child separated from the class at school by the elevator snafu.

Eleven year old Sara Acosta-Terrero has been going through much the same thing over at Frost Middle School.

More from Ken MacLeod
  • Michael

    It is too bad a lot of people totally”Write Me And Others Off” ,who have disabilities and special needs that we cannot control or help for who we are,or what we are.
    We should at least give them a chance,including me and others and let them be accepted,no matter who they are,or what we are.
    and what kind of a disability we have. If no one else cares about people with disabilities and if no one wants to accept them anymore,who will???Thanks.

    • DudeZXT

      Ever heard of the Americans with Disabilities Act??? This state needs to be sued for not complying with Federal Law!

    • Davedavis

      Why is it we are all ready to slam “others who write me off”? Do you realize how many benefits, assistance, compassion is given to people with disabilities? How much of my tax dollar (which I could use to pay for my own disabilities) are used for various reasons to help the disabled? Quit crying victim, makes me sick. Yes it is sad what happened to this boy, but guess what, many students are required to live with the disruptions caused by other students,,

      • bubba

        If there is justice in the world you will end up in a wheelchair.

      • William Burchfield

        Bubba thinks hes righteous enough to cast the first stone. A truly just world would have him pushing your ass around in a wheelchair.

      • verheek

        Boy your are a hard hearted old thing aren’t you? Just because you pay all that stuff doesn’t mean it reaches the person where they are at. Sheesh.

      • Mitch

        I somewhat agree, they all felt soo bad but couldn’t help him up one story to get to class. That or the father should have let him stay home and sue the school for not being wheelchair accessable. Why did everyone go along with this stupididty, what was so important to be there if he wasn’t being taught.

  • Jennifer Howes Pepe

    I can’t believe the school would be so callous in this situation. At the very least they should have moved his class to the first floor until the elevator could be fixed. I used to work at a school with multiple buildings, but only one was handicapped accessible. When a student had a disability or an injury they school would move the class until the injury healed or schedule the class in an accessible area. I am glad the elevator has been fixed for Huy, but the school system needs to accommodate ALL students or they will have a very valid lawsuit on their hands.

    • ma67

      You stole my thunder as I thought the very same thing. Simple solution really by bringing the class to HIM. What’s the problem with this school.

    • Flower Child

      I agree, this is simple and inexpensive

      • erasmus

        pettifoggers, beadles and bureaucrats cannot comprehend simple fixes and common sense!

  • Barry Levy

    Can’t help but think if this were a muslim student or a black studen the hue and cry would have had the elevator fixed in no time.

    But heck, this child didn’t have activists screaming for equal treatment, and the loudest voices, not the right voices, seem to get the attention that they do, whether deserved or not.

  • Raye

    Oh for heaven’s sake – doesn’t anybody know how to PICK UP A WHEELCHAIR and carry it up a flight of stairs?

    • Jon Schill

      and this went on for five weeks? back in the 50s – when i was in fifth grade in iowa – we had a classmate with ms and was wheel chair bound. our classroom was on the second floor. five of us carried him up the stairs every day and never gave it a second thought.

    • roger

      My thoughts exactly. They carried people in wheel chairs down the trade center building stairs after the plane hit. But then they weren’t union teachers and or other left wing educators.

      • petem

        really? you had to play that card? can’t one discussion remain about the subject? You stupid man, the ‘union teachers and left wing educators’ you so hate are about all that’s left of the middle class in this country. Perhaps it was not they who forbade the other kids from helping Khank, but a heartless administrator or a lawyer. Or maybe just maybe the nurse who has some experience felt the risk to Khank was too great in case he fell…
        Not every story has to end with the evil liberals being boiled in oil.
        get your head out of Faux News and you might find out there’s a world out here that doesn’t resemble what they tell you….

    • Rebel Yell

      Five weeks, and they can’t get him up the stairs? Give me a break. Maybe it’s time for his parents to do the right thing: pull him out and find him a real education either at home or at an institution that actually builds strong, educated individuals.

      • Susanna Gordon

        Why didn’t his father keep him at home? That would have gotten atteition – the school would have lost its ADA money for this student,.plus, the would risk special state money earmarked for special needs children.

        Schools like to misappropriate state money provided for special needs children so they can use it on more union friendly expenditures.

        Actually, by today’s educational standards, he did not miss much in five weeks out of the classroom. Probably learned more.

    • USArmyCombatMedic

      That’s what I was thinking. What kind of “friends” does this poor guy have? I would not leave a friend to sit by himself for weeks, even if that meant I and a buddy have to pick him up ourselves.

      This was callous and disturbing. The amount of red tape blocking him isn’t what surprised me most (that’s the gov’t for you). I am shocked his so called friends would leave him.

      • Reason111

        Because Medic….so many lawsuits today, no way can the school allow someone under 18 to lift more than a specified weight. Research up the blog here…how many saying ‘lawsuit’. It’s all about lawsuits.
        now that i live in an area that isn’t so lawsuit prone, it AMAZES me the amount of citizen compassion for each other. Thirty years in Vegas and didn’t realize there is a world out there that still looks out for each other without worrying about being ‘blamed’ if you try to be helpful and something fails.
        When I first moved here (carolinas) and there was a rare incident of breakins, my neighbor said, let’s go to the surrounding neighbors and ‘shake their handles’ to make sure all is OK. My FIRST (and insistent) response was: I’m NOT putting MY fingerprints on someone’s door handle.
        REALLY? Was that really me 3 years ago?
        so stop and think why the friends didn’t lift him up the stairs. I’d bet the offer was there and the school wouldn’t allow it.
        Keep the lawsuits coming. Making the world a great place to live, hey? (hope you hear the sarcasm)

      • Counselor42

        The problem is his friends may have wanted to do just that, but were told they couldn’t because of some scare that if they got hurt doing so, the school would be liable. Government gets in the way of many good ideas.

    • UpStateNY

      Liability, liability, etc.

      When I was in high school, a girl was in a wheel chair. Strong boys carried her and her wheel chair from floor to floor of a three story building.

      She graduated, college, married, kids, good job and lived happily ever after.

      she should be about 74 now.

    • Sturat

      The only sane comment in a sea of narcissism.

  • Jim Freeman

    This is what is so frigging WRONG with America today. Nobody could help him up the stairs? He puts his arms around two friends and a third carries his wheelchair.

    Got help us, this is what we get when we expect the government to do everything for us, a nation of stupid sheep.

    • Frank

      Exactly. It’s not that hard to get someone up and down stairs. If it had been so important, they would have carried him.

    • Roger

      They tried but the school wouldn’t allow it, too much liablity. Just because you read an artical doesn’t mean you know the FULL story. Some American’s think the issue with America is people who rush to judgement. Before you start blaming 300 million others……………..think please.

      • Frank

        Roger, the problem is sheeple. Who would have stopped a couple of his friends from carrying him up the stairs? Don’t ask. Do. If it’s so important, you don’t let someone build a box around you.

    • davedavis

      Amen to that, darn, even his family could have gone to school to help lift him upstairs. My mom helped me get up the stairs when I couldn’t do it on my own,, no government, no mandatory school official, just FAMILY HELPING FAMILY.

      • Grown up

        Do you home work before making a assumption. HIs family has tried very hard to help him out. Re-read all news starting from ET to understand the whole situation. And be more positive to others if you like others to be positive to you.

        Also for your other blog, Huy’s dad denied state benefit and sent a letter thanking his social worker after less than a year when he found a job just barely enough to support his family, and continuing to pay all taxes up until today. Let look back at your self and compare.
        How does it feel? Again, be grown up, do your home work before enter the game my friend.

    • JByrd42

      Totally agree. What happened to trying to help ourselves or others? Have we lost our minds?

    • PFN

      I was thinking the same thing, but knowing how gov’t schools are, there are probably too many laws they could have been breaking or insurance regulations that wouldn’t cover them if he got dropped.
      That is the “sue them for anything” society we live in, unfortunately.

  • McPete

    Education,government and unions=Always a bad combination.

  • Sire Lansing

    The Elevator probably doesn’t meet the ADA code for Americans with disabilities.
    How Ironic that would be if the only reason he can’t use the elevator he used before was because of Teddy Kennedy’s plan to make public places more accessible.

  • jack nichols

    Here is a story designed to pull at the heart strings and gather support for the physically challenged. This story is nothing more than hype and and drawing attention to this special interest. Why wasn’t he carried to his classroom by his friends, teachers, family, or custodial staff until the elevator was fixed? This reminds me of the story about a group of idiots that was trapped on an escalator for hours when the power went off, why didn’t they just walk down? Yes we need to have compassion for the physically challenged but leaving a child alone is wrong. Many other considerations could have been made. In this case I blame the teachers, administration, family, and friends for allowing this to happen. Machines break, people need to improvise to help their fellow man. This story displays the thoughtless careless behavior people around this boy not a broken machine. I classify all of his so-called friends, family and teachers idiots.

    • kdawwg_10

      Hey Jack Nichols,
      I’m pretty sure that only an idiot would believe a story about someone being trapped on an escalator or hours. Someone should take away your computer! Dip Sh!t!

      • Jack Nichols' shadow

        No! It really is true! I saw it on the internets. You can too. Use your “mouse” to “click” this link:

      • Mitch Herbert RIP

        “I like an escalator because an escalator can never break, it can only become stairs. There would never be an escalator temporarily out order sign, only an escalator temporarily stairs. Sorry for the convenience.

  • Andrea

    This made national news?

    • Who stole my onion?

      I dunno. Let’s think about it. The news website is from Boston. I think it is safe to assume that a lot of the people saying, “Carry the kid and his chair up the stairs” are probably from sensible fly-over states. Below are Hank Hill and Kahn, proudly representing Arlen, TX. But I see no Left Coast nutjobs. So, no. This is apparently not national news. Just semi-national news.

      • Who stole my onion?

        Correction: Jack weighed in from the Left Coast: “Sue the school and the city.”
        Yes. This did in fact make national news.

      • USArmyCombatMedic

        I’m from CA. This story made the Drudge Report, thereby making it national news I suppose. By the way, not everyone in CA is a left coast nutjob. Most of us.. I will give you that. But not all.

  • jack

    Sue the school and the city.

    • mewp

      What I wonder is that they had no classrooms on the first floor? this is stupid. I might have taken them 5 minutes to figureout something but 5 weeks?

      • USArmyCombatMedic

        I hope you realize, “I might have taken them 5 minutes…” makes no sense whatsoever. Same goes for “What I wonder is that they had no classrooms on the first floor?”. Also, “figureout” should actually be “figure out”. That’s what the squiggly red line under it was trying to tell you.

  • DrRob

    “Everyday I wish for the elevator to be fixed,” laments Huy. “So I can go upstairs and see my friends again.” Was there a problem having the friends come down.. Someone is grooping for a story when somebody could have been using a little common sense. They could have put him on a strecher and carried in up and down. I am sure there is building code that says don’t use an elevator in an emergency. What were the plans for that?

  • Deena

    How idiotic. There are so many ways around this problem. Bring his class downstairs, carry him up, put in a stair lift like people have at home, assign him to another achool temporarily, home instruction, make his elevator a priority, etc.

    I’m also dismayed that his parents were so accepting of this situation. So many have been conditioned to ignore their individual dignity and rights and just accept what those in charge tell them.

  • Barry Soetoro

    Ahhhhh, gov’t efficiency at its finest.

  • Mack Daddy G-Austin,TX

    This is one reason my son was pulled out of middle school is homeschooled. He has a mild mobility disability which affects walking. The school was multifloored. Yes, he had an elevator key and used it as the stairs were daunting, if not impossible. However, having to explain over and over again a medical condition to idiots who did not see any “visible” reason my son cannot walk like other children was tedious. I feel for this child who should have been afforded a school at home or online option at least, rather than having to sit in virtual imprisonment at the nurses office (unless the nurse was hot-just kidding).

  • H. Hill

    So are you Chineese or Japaneese?

    • Kahn M.

      I’m Loatian Stupid, it’s a landlock country in Souteast Asia!

      • Mikey

        ……………………………………………….So are you Chineese or Japaneese?

    • Grown up

      So who you are? Is that profiling people important to you?

      • Another Grown Up

        Inside joke, buddy. It’s from “King of the Hill.”

        Actually, in my humble opinion, humor is much needed in a venue like this. What better place is there to observe humans behaving like humans than in a comment thread? Everybody sits down in front of a keyboard and all of a sudden it’s like a license to be jerks to everyone whom we perceive might even slightly disagree with us. Notice I said, “perceive.”

        It’s good to lighten up

      • davedavis

        Hey grown up,, what did his father do? send emails and make calls?

  • AnJo1

    Just can’t wait until government is in complete control of our health care!

  • bob

    This is the Principal’s and Local Board of Educations fault. It is not because of lack of money–if the Principal had put this on a high priority list, local businesses and individual may would have donated enough money to repair the elevators, but like a lot of people, the Principal, it is assumed, did not ask for help other from the local School Board–common since is lacking even if it only benefits one school child amoung many. How about a situation where the teachers lounge door gets jammed so bad that it can’t be opened–I bet it would be fixed in a matter of hours regardless of cost.

  • jona

    HE will still get better grades than the rest of the school.


    For those that say “Why don’t they carry him up the stairs,” consider that it is a spinal cord injury. Carrying him may cause more harm and God forbid the liability suit if he was dropped. I liked the stair lift and temporary transfer ideas though.

    But – what idiotic public employee decided that schools with disabled students should be prioritized and expedited?

    How many inspectors and maintenance staff sitting on their cans or doing minimal work all day long could have had those two particular elevators restored within the second day of school – SINCE THEY REFUSED TO DO IT DURING THE SUMMER WHEN REPAIRS WERE SCHEDULED.

    No union employee will be disciplined for this and the guys that finally did their job 5 months late are probably getting kudos.


      Meant to say “But – what idiotic public employee decided that schools with disabled students should not be prioritized and expedited?”

    • Janelle

      If he were that fragile, he would be bed-ridden. He does get cleaned and gets picked up to get in and out of bed and into his and out of his chair either by his parents or by state workers. There’s no excuse for at least adults not to carry him up the stairs if he was that bothered with not being in his class for 5 weeks. As far as liability concerns, that’s easy. Have his family sign a waiver.

    • USArmyCombatMedic

      Hmmm… I think I have to disagree. Nobody is saying (hopefully) to carry him up the stairs fireman-style. If it were up to me, I would lock his wheels in place, and grab one. Another buddy could grab the other. He could still sit in his chair. Would it be tiring for me? Absolutely. But that’s what friends do.

      As far as lawsuits are concerned (in the event he’s dropped), you have a point.

      And I agree with the rest of your comment.

  • Janelle

    I agree that this whole situation is absolutely absurd. My cousin is in a wheelchair and he’s a grown man, weighing over 180 lbs. We’ve never had a situation where he could not participate in an activity on an upper level floor in a building without elevators because we simply carry him up the stairs. Hello? How hard would it be for a couple of his friends or his family members to carry him up the stairs and a third person to carry his wheelchair up? How victimized have we learned to become? Seriously.

  • Fred

    In a saner time, the football team- big strapping guys- would have offered to carry the wheelchair and the guy up and down stairs. But now they probably aren;t even allowed to do anything like this because of legal liabilities. The ADA requirements are ridiculous too. Look at all the empty spaces for handicapped around places of business. Gio to an airport and see a bank of phones all set at a height for wheelchairs or small people. Luckily cell phones have made them less needed!
    There should be no need for elevators in a school.

  • greg

    What did we do before there was elevators? we carried people on our backs or on stretchers. This reminds me of the escalator that breaks down and the people stranded on the stairs start shouting for help. Good Grief people its time to start doing things for yourself and stop relying on the big O dumbo and his policies.

    • grown up

      Yes. The alternative plan, going back to old fashion, was about to be done during the 3rd week, but then the family was told to hold off because the elevator was about to get fixed shortly. Also, his dad had to work his ass from the time your ass still in the warm blanket until late at night struggling to support his family with all of the nowaday living expenses including his medical needs.
      The news that you get is just a short sumary of the whole story.
      Sigh!! another whole punch of school drop outs couldn’t finish the homework before joining the game. Lord has mercy for all of you

      • USArmyCombatMedic

        You keep mentioning “fact” that you allegedly found elsewhere. For the rest of us to take you seriously, please cite your sources…

  • John Sheridan

    Since this was at the beginning of the year, why didn’t they transfer him to another school? At the very least, he should have been given the option to stay at home and have teachers come by to home school him until it is fixed.

    • davedavis

      i worked for a school district, each child is entitled to an education in the least restrictive environment (the law). Sounds fair, good, however some take it to extreme, like requiring the folks in a small rural town to go bankrupt air conditioning a school for one kid who had problems.. We do good things, others take it to the extreme.

      • Andrew P.

        Is your name really Dave Davis… No offense, just wondering.

  • icecycle66

    Hooray government!

  • davedavis

    bubba (*in response to my comment.)

    If there is justice in the world you will end up in a wheelchair.

    November 4, 2011 at 2:14 pm
    and if there is any real justice in the world I’ll be able to kick you in the A hole with my fake foot,,TIME FOR FAMILY, COMMUNITY, CHURCH, NOT GOVERNMENT FEDERAL STATE OR CITY TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT

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