Thousands of children have fallen from windows, but the American Indian Community Development Corporation was the first developer to get the law changed.
On the first anniversary of 2-year-old Laela Shaugobay’s (Mille Lac Band Ojibwe) fall from a window and near death, she and State Legislators unveiled the recently-passed “Laela’s Law” aimed at protecting children in newly constructed buildings. Miraculously, Laela was not permanently injured, but a second child who also feel from a window in the same building that same year, died. It’s a miraculous moment considering many thought she would never survive the fall.
The manager of the apartment building, Jim Graham, approached Senator Linda Berglin to help bring forward a bill that would help prevent similar falls from occurring.
“Horror, pure horror. It was the worst day of my life," said Laela’s mother Ruth Shaugobay. “Everyday I see her and it reminds me, I almost lost her.”
Since that frightening day, the apartment developer knew he had to stop children from falling through window screens. Child window falls are a common problem in every city in the nation. Minnesota will become the first state to enact legislation to address this problem. The Minnesota “Laela’s Law” is being used as a model for other states and will lead national building code changes in the next two years.
“There was a national lobbying effort to oppose this legislation, primarily from the window industry. The day we struck the deal, there were 13 lobbyists in the room from different firms, but we had first-hand accounts of the tragic deaths,” said Jim Graham, Director of Real Estate Services for the American Indian Community Development Corporation.
According to the Minnesota Safety Council, an estimated 4,700 children ages 14 and under are treated in hospital emergency rooms annually for injuries sustained from falling out of windows. Over 80 percent of these children are under 3 years old. On June 16, 2006 Laela Shaugobay suffered the same fate when a window screen gave way and she plunged four floors to a concrete sidewalk. Her fall impassioned citizens and motivated State legislators to create a means of saving children from falling through flimsy window screens. Overcoming tremendous lobbying pressure to stop them Minnesota Legislators passed, and Governor Pawlenty signed, the legislation.