We await the full story about boy with Down syndrome.
American Airlines recently refused to allow a teen with Down syndrome to fly from Newark to Los Angeles with his parents because the pilot deemed him a safety risk. The teen's parents, Robert and Joan Vanderhorst, said they plan to sue the airline for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Although not all details of case are known at this point, the incident appears to be a troubling reminder of how precarious and subjective airline security remains 11 years after 9/11. Even so, the issue here wasn't terrorism, but an airline's subject determination and fuzzy explanation about why the child couldn't be allowed to fly.
In a statement, the airline said 16-year-old Bede Vanderhorst was "excitable, running around and not acclimated to the environment." However, a video taken at the scene by his shocked mother shows the teen sitting quietly at the airline gate, chewing on and playing with his hat.
In the background, her husband can be heard pleading with an airline staffer: "He's behaving. He's demonstrating he's not a problem." Joan Vanderhorst demands to know why other parents aren't being told their children can't fly.
The Vanderhorsts, who live in Porterville, Calif., say they've flown with their son many times without incident. But this time, they upgraded their tickets to first class and, in their minds, that's when the trouble started.
"I kept saying, 'Is this only because he has Down syndrome?'" Joan Vanderhorst said in an interview with Los Angeles news station KTLA. "This little boy had a seat in the first-class area, and for some reason they didn't want that. That wasn't acceptable."
If that's what happened, then the airline's behavior was deplorable. But we simply don't know the full story yet. We count on airlines to keep us safe, but all passengers deserve to be treated with dignity and not to be deemed dangerous because they look "different."