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Lawyer Considers Suit After American Bars His Son with Down Syndrome from Plane

Posted Sep 5, 2012 6:37 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A California lawyer is expressing outrage after American Airlines refused to allow his son with Down syndrome to board a flight home from New Jersey on Sunday.

Porterville, Calif., lawyer Robert Vanderhorst says he is considering a lawsuit, report the Fresno Bee and the New York Daily News. Vanderhorst believes the airline violated his 16-year-old son’s civil rights and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Vanderhorst and his wife had paid to upgrade the family to first class seats; he believes that is the reason the pilot decided that his son, Bede, could not board. "The pilot saw my son and thought he might disturb the tranquility of those flying in first class," Vanderhorst told the Fresno Bee.

American Airlines, however, claims the boy was agitated and not ready to fly. Vanderhorst tells the Fresno Bee that Bede did walk around the terminal, but he was not unruly. KABC and KTLA have reports including video taken by Vanderhorst’s wife, Joan, showing Bede sitting quietly and playing with his hat while the couple pleaded with airline representatives to allow their son to fly.

"He's behaving," Robert Vanderhorst told an airline official. "He's demonstrating he's not a problem."

After Joan Vanderhorst began recording the incident, the family was escorted out of the terminal by Port Authority police. They were rebooked on United, where they sat in the last row.

Also see the video report from ABC 7:

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