A California family says they were banned from an American Airlines flight because their teenage son has Down syndrome. According to a report from the Associated Press (AP), Robert Vanderhorst and his family claim airline personnel prevented them from getting on a flight from Newark to Los Angeles last weekend. American staff members allegedly declared the 16-year-old teen with Down syndrome a "security risk."
Matt Miller, a representative from American, told the AP, "He was not ready to fly, that was our perspective." Miller argues that the boy was running around prior to boarding and appeared agitated. The pilot of the plane, who took note of the teen's behavior before boarding, made the ultimate call to deny boarding to the family.
Vanderhorst tells a different story, however. He says his son was not running around or doing anything that warranted attention from airline staff. And he has proof. There's cell phone video of the incident; you can see it on The Huffington Post. In the video, the boy appears to be sitting quietly. His mother, visibly distraught, sobs and demands to know why her family is being "singled out."
In an interview with the New York Daily News Vanderhorst said he had flown with his son at least 30 times without incident. So were the Vanderhorsts unjustly singled out? That's an argument that will undoubtedly come to light in court, as the family plans to sue American Airlines.
Passengers have been kicked off planes for all kinds of frivolous so-called offenses, from wearing revealing clothing to traveling with screaming toddlers in tow. But to deny boarding to a family because their child has Down syndrome is outright discrimination—and a possible violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, says a lawyer who spoke to the New York Daily News. If the boy wasn't egregiously misbehaving, he had every right to get on that plane.
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