Just when you think people couldn’t be more IGNORANT…
Joan and Robert Vanderhorst were attempting to fly, from Newark to Los Angeles, on Sunday with their 16-year-old son Bede. Bede has Down syndrome.
As they were waiting to board the plane, an official came over and told them that they would not be able to fly because…Bede was a “SECURITY RISK”???!
Fearing that her son’s civil rights, as well as those afforded by the Americans With Disabilities Act, were being violated: Joan began filming on her cell phone. She was told she couldn’t film at the gate…she did anyway.
In the video, Joan can be heard SOBBING while her husband sounds completely dumbfounded, “He’s behaving,” Robert says. “He’s demonstrating he’s not a problem.” Joan then added, “Of course he’s behaving. He’s never not behaved.” As the video pans to Bede, “the SECURITY RISK” is seen seated quietly, playing with his hat.
The family has flown together numerous times. This time, however, was their first time ever upgrading to FIRST CLASS. “This little boy had a seat in the first class area, and for some reason, they didn’t want that. That wasn’t acceptable,” Joan said adding, “I kept saying, ‘Is this only because he has Down syndrome?’”
Robert says the family was warned their son’s behavior was a concern because their first class seat was too close to the cockpit and a DISTRACTION to the pilot could cause a mid-flight emergency landing. Robert, however, insisted, “My son is no different from a 4 or 5 year old as far as behavior.”
The airline claims Bede was “excitable, running around, and not acclimated to the environment” and that the pilot had unsuccessfully tried to calm him down. According to a company spokesperson, “For the safety of the young man and the safety of others, [the airline] offered to book another flight for the family.”
The Vanderhorsts, though, are unwavering in their claim that Bede hadn’t caused any trouble and that he was merely being discriminated against. Eventually, airline personnel called airport police to intervene — and the family was booked on a different Airline. They state they were not refunded their upgrade fee which, of course, they were unable to use.
The family says they plan to sue the airline and hope their experience will teach the company, and people in general, a valuable lesson. “Respect each person’s dignity,” Robert said. “Every one of us should be treated with equal dignity.”