‘I use the pain’ Michigan mom advocates for change after child’s death

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — The tragedy happened more than four years ago but not a day goes by where Tabitha Kerr doesn’t think of her daughter, Lilliana.

Lilliana was just 3-years-old in 2017 when she was at a Head Start program at St. Albert’s Church in Dearborn Heights when a table that was folded against the wall — and supposed to be replaced years prior — fell down and killed her.

Since that day, Kerr has been fighting to make schools safer.

And there she was on Tuesday (and Wednesday) sitting under a tree on the East Lawn of the State Capitol. She had a pull cart and a few signs — but no cameras. No entrorouge of supporters.

Kerr says she’s had tons of family and friends support her along the way, but the fight to create Lilliana’s law has been the story of a mom who refuses to take no for an answer.

“I use the pain and turn it around in a constructive way and use it to be able to do the things that I do,” Kerr said.

Kerr has been trying to get lawmakers to listen to what she feels is a lack of safety and accountability in schools.

“This is our third attempt of trying to get Lilliana’s law and it just seems like it keeps on getting pushed back every time,” Kerr said. “To date, there is nothing to prevent our children from dying.”

She gathered thousands of signatures before creating House Bill 4617 — also known as Lilliana’s law.

But what exactly is it?

“It would mandate yearly school inspections for Michigan schools,” a policy that doesn’t currently exist, Kerr said. “Also currently if you do not have an early education center in your school building, you cannot find your school’s inspection records to find out what’s going on in your school.

“So Lilliana’s law would also correct that problem.”

Kerr has testified before legislature three times, however the House vote continues to stall.

Why? One reason is that estimates are it would cost nearly $3 million to have yearly school inspections. Kerr believes that’s a small price to pay for a childs life.

“I want all the lawmakers to do their jobs,” she said.

And why does she feel the need to drive from Flat Rock to Lansing — nearly 200 miles round trip — sometimes multiple times a week in order to sit in front of the Capitol?

“(So lawmakers) have to look me in the eye as they walk past,” Kerr said. “So they know until they vote, I’ll be here.”

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