Teen barred from boarding flight for having Down Syndrome, family says

By Stephanie Grimes | Posted - Sep. 5, 2012 at 10:37 a.m.



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LOS ANGELES — A family is claiming they were prevented from boarding an American Airlines flight to Los Angeles because their son has Down Syndrome.

Joan and Robert Vanderhorst said they waited to board their flight from Newark, New Jersey, but were told they would not be allowed to board the plane because he was "excitable" and posed a "flight risk."

Joan Vanderhorst taped the incident, showing Bede Vanderhorst, 16, sitting at the gate, playing with his hat.

"I kept saying, ‘Is this only because he has Down Syndrome?'" Joan Vanderhorst told [KTLA](<http://www.ktla.com/news/landing/ktla-family-kicked-off-flight-downs-syndrome,0,1076711.story >).

The family has flown together dozens of times, but this was the first time they had tried to fly first class with Bede.

"I think the pilot was concerned that my son was going to be in first class, and I think the pilot felt that my type of son, my disabled Down syndrome son, shouldn't be in first class," Robert Vanderhorst told KABC.

The family believes the incident was a violation of Bede's civil rights and of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

American Airlines said in a prepared statement that the flight crew had determined Bede was agitated and that the Vanderhorsts "were asked to take an alternate flight."

The family was placed on the back row of a United Airlines flight later that day. The Vanderhorsts are considering a lawsuit against American Airlines.

Stephanie Grimes

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