Mother claims Dorney Park discriminated against daughter with Down Syndrome

Posted Tuesday, July 19, 2011 1:35 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Lynnette Prescott, of Macungie, Lehigh County, said her two-year-old daughter was kept off a ride at Dorney Park on Friday because she has Down syndrome. Isabella, who is small for her age, was prevented from riding the Road Rally ride in the Planet Snoopy section of the park, a ride her mom said Isabella has ridden before.

Read more and see video from WFMZ/Allentown.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011 11:15 PM

Whatever sympathy I had for the family evaporated as I read the comments accompanying the news story. Someone saying he is the child's father has been on the site for at least 2 days straight, responding almost immediately to every comment posted by someone else.

The guy's even been nasty to other posters who say they have children with disabilities, and they don't think the park did anything wrong. Makes you wonder what the real intent is here. Now I feel sorry for the girl not because of her disability, but because she has parents who are real pieces of work.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011 11:54 PM

Raven-Phile said:
Stuff like this is the exact reason IANAL, to be honest.

CoasterDemon said:
What the heck is IANAL ?

:)

(from the other litigious thread)

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011 3:43 AM

The only thing the park should apologize for is letting the girl on the ride previously, if that's even true.

I've found when parents are trying to argue their kid's way onto a ride, they immediately reach for "but they've been on this ride before" or "they just got off that ride which is exactly like this ride". Usually it's a bold faced lie.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011 11:27 AM

Right, I don't know the family background, so I don't know how familiar they are with raising a special-needs child. From what you are saying based on looking at the comments to the news article in the mainstream press (and we know those are always the most intelligent, level headed comments), it would appear that even when their peers, who are more experienced in such matters, are trying to advise them they are wrong, they still not only refuse to accept it, but lash out at those who are trying to help them.

After lawsuits, trying to win the battle in the media seems to be the next favorite tactic of why we are traveling in the proverbial handbasket. Can't get satisfaction from a business, contact the media and try to bully the business by 'threatening to give them a bad public image'. Unfortunately for this family, right now the public image is all about "the parks should do more keep riders safe" after the Darien Lake incident, they may not garner the reaction they were looking for here.

In general, the media feeds this kind of stuff with consumer 'advocate' reporters, you know the ones - got a problem call me. Next thing you know they have a company villified on the 11 o'clock news, that may or may not have deserved it.

Going back to the comment "Why can't she ride, this is her favorite ride and has been on it several times" - yeah, that could have been a big fat lie. The tales of what parents will do to try to get their children on rides are well known, lying is certainly not out of the question.

However: what if the mother was right, what if, earlier that same day, she did ride the ride, she might have even liked the ride. Then we have what has got to be the bane of comapnies everywhere trying to avoid litigation: inconsistency. As long as every staff member treats every guest the exact same way, and enforces every minute detail of every company policy the exact same way for every guest, lifeis fine. it's when it can be deomstrated that things werent done exactly the same for everybody that problems creep in. Now the park is in a Catch-22. "Okay, we should have let her ride. "So you discrimianted against her" or "We should never have let her ride the first time" "So, you admit you endangered my daughther by knowingly putting her in a hazardous situation" You can see why the park is treading lightly on this one.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011 6:31 PM

How bout the parents and Dorney sit down and talk about it. Give or take some hugs, hear each other out. Then put the girl on the ride with a responsible adult!? Nothing is perfect, but seems we can come to some sort of agreement.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011 11:39 PM

I can believe she was allowed to ride previously. The rider requirements for the new rides in Planet Snoopy have been changing since it opened. The monorail for example opened with no maximum height requirement. It was changed a few weeks after opening to a rule of anyone over 54" can't ride unless they are with a kid under 54" (which is unfortunate because it is probably the only ride most people over 54" would want to try in Planet Snoopy without a kid, other than enthusiasts wanting the coaster credit). The Kite Flyer also changed the requirements, the sign now has conflicting information (I forget the specifics something about no one over 54" at all, and then it says 42" to ride alone with no maximum height listed).

Last edited by YoshiFan, Wednesday, July 20, 2011 11:39 PM
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Thursday, July 21, 2011 2:29 AM

CoasterDemon said:
How bout the parents and Dorney sit down and talk about it. Give or take some hugs, hear each other out.

Because hugs won't pay for the new house/car mommy and daddy want. :)

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Thursday, July 21, 2011 9:09 AM

That strikes me as rather judgmental. I suspect that seeing your kid not get their way is a stronger motivator than the dollar.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011 10:14 AM

Not trying to be facetious here, as my knowledge of two year olds and people with downs syndrome is limited: Would Isabella have even known what was going on if she went on a ride? Or was this more just to make the parent feel warm and fuzzy about their kid going on a ride?

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Thursday, July 21, 2011 10:30 AM

Park apology, without admitting any wrongdoing... "The park is sorry that your kid doesn't meet the ride requirements that are intended to keep your kid and all our guests safe."

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Thursday, July 21, 2011 11:39 AM

Is it me, or did they take the comments off that News article? It was interesting to read, but now I don't see a link to any comments.

Last edited by FloridaRider, Thursday, July 21, 2011 11:39 AM
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Thursday, July 21, 2011 11:54 AM

CoasterDemon said:
How bout the parents and Dorney sit down and talk about it. Give or take some hugs, hear each other out. Then put the girl on the ride with a responsible adult!? Nothing is perfect, but seems we can come to some sort of agreement.

LOL, Billy thinking everything can be solved by hugs... ;)

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Thursday, July 21, 2011 12:07 PM

RatherGoodBear said:
Whatever sympathy I had for the family evaporated as I read the comments accompanying the news story. Someone saying he is the child's father has been on the site for at least 2 days straight, responding almost immediately to every comment posted by someone else.

The guy's even been nasty to other posters who say they have children with disabilities, and they don't think the park did anything wrong. Makes you wonder what the real intent is here. Now I feel sorry for the girl not because of her disability, but because she has parents who are real pieces of work.

When it comes to reading news on the internet such as Yahoo for example, this sort of thing is exactly why I avoid reading the comments section. I can recall when Michael Jackson had died. No sooner his death was announced here comes the comments from those who "claimed" to had been abused by Jackson even though odds are they had never met the man in the first damn place. Such as this comment I can remember reading on Yahoo News

"...my family had seen Michael Jackson doing a show in West Virginia. After the show I was in the restroom only to run into Jackson using the toilet...he then forced me to get naked, drink wine and then we had sex even though I was only 13.."

For the record Michael Jackson never did any show in West Virginia which is info one can easily find online BTW but still it didn't stop other posters on Yahoo from saying "OMG...really ??" "..what a sick man..I shall pray for you my child..." UGH !!!!!!!!!!

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Thursday, July 21, 2011 2:18 PM

Fun said:
Not trying to be facetious here, as my knowledge of two year olds and people with downs syndrome is limited: Would Isabella have even known what was going on if she went on a ride? Or was this more just to make the parent feel warm and fuzzy about their kid going on a ride?

I can't so much comment on the age aspect, but as far as having downs syndrome, it depends on the severity. It's highly likely that what you're asking isn't the case, as people with downs syndrome can live fairly normal lives. I grew up with a girl who is my age (I'm now 30), and though she doesn't have the intelligence to drive a car, and obviously she's never going to have a career with lots of responsibilities, she does public speaking, is able to do basic construction work, understands what is going on around her, etc. So it's possible. Having said that, the kid was 2 years old.

To me, the 'problem' here is what the parent said about being let on before. Theres a 50/50 shot that she could be lying. If so, no surprise there, and on the flip side, if the kid had been allowed, no surprise there. But the policy is in place now, and was enforced.

We just saw a guy get chucked because the park didn't follow their own policies. I think the park is 100% correct in this instance, regardless of what happened in the past in regards to this little girl.

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Friday, July 22, 2011 1:22 AM

rollergator said:

CoasterDemon said:
How bout the parents and Dorney sit down and talk about it. Give or take some hugs, hear each other out. Then put the girl on the ride with a responsible adult!? Nothing is perfect, but seems we can come to some sort of agreement.

LOL, Billy thinking everything can be solved by hugs... ;)

I've been surprised :) Coupled with simply listening (without replying) to someone's issue, can work wonders. Sometimes people just want to be heard and talked to.

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Friday, July 22, 2011 1:34 AM

...and sometimes people just need kicked in the nuts. :)

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Friday, July 22, 2011 1:36 AM

Hello folks. I'm Isabella's father. I found your site when I searched on my wife's name, as several sites on the net have picked up the story. Please forgive this very long post.

When I read your comments I was impressed by the fact that most of the commentors here appear to be keeping an open mind as to what the truth in the situation is, even if you disagree with us. That resulted in my concern that there is some misinformation repeated here that was being tossed around in the news site's forum. That forum apparently was taken down earlier today. I don't know why that happenned, but I do know that it occurred shortly after I requested that several posts that I believe were libelous be removed.

I hope you don't mind my intrusion in your forum, but because of the open mindedness I see here, I felt it important that I try to correct some of the bad information that has been flowing. I realize that you have no reason to believe anything I say, but I'll give it a shot anyway. Of course from this post I realize you also don't have any way of knowing that I am who I say that I am, but if your moderator cares to contact me at the email address I registered with, which I invite, I'm sure we could clear that up. I have no desire to argue with anyone here, I only would like to state our side of the story.

First, though, I'd like to address the comments that we are somehow bad parents. My wife and I have seven children (as ours is not the first marriage for either of us) and a grandchild. Four of those children are adults now. We would have another child if we had not lost her in a tragedy at her birth 4 years ago. Isabella is our youngest child, and we won't be having any more. She is precious to us. All of our children are, but due to Isabella's Down Syndrome she naturally requires more of our attention and protection than the other kids do. My wife, who is an RN, is easily one of the most protective and cautious mothers I have ever seen. I tease her about it all the time. The idea that she would endanger Isabella's safety for the sake of an amusement park ride would be laughable to anyone who knows her. We were not online for 20 or 24 hours straight responding to comments as the posters on the news site claimed. I'm hoping that the gentleman in this forum who reported that was simply believing the posters from the other site. We were online for 6 hours Monday night after our kids were in bed, and then again for a few hours Tuesday morning. We decided to stop posting around 12:30 or so Tuesday afternoon as we realized that all we were doing was encouraging more hateful criticism from a small group of people in that forum. This post is the first one I've made since then. I also don't feel I was unjustifiably rude to anyone in that forum. Yes I did make some very pointed comments to a few posters, but that was after I was told I was a sue-happy parent, after my family and employment status were questioned, after my daughter was call a "retard" by several posters and after one person went to my wife's Facebook site and proceeded to post information about my child's medical issues (which I assure you were totally irrelevant to the issue at hand) in the forum. When my wife then hid her site, that same individual then proceeded to post false information about my daughter's health since the Facebook site wouldn't be available to refute his claims. These are the posts I asked to have removed. The only posters I fought back against who claimed to have disabled children were the two (I think) who chose to berate me in their own posts first. One of them even used disparaging terms to refer to children with Down syndrome while claiming she has a child with DS herself. Yes a few people did post who said the were parents of disabled children who did not agree with us. However, we are members of the local Down Syndrome association. We have received nothing but support from the other members of that organization, most of whom had warned us to not read the comments before they started. It was with the support and encouragement of those real people, not posters on the Internet, over the weekend after the incident occurred that swayed us to move forward with this matter.

We live literally 5 minutes from Dorney Park. We've had season passes for the past three years, and before that when we lived farther away we would visit several times a season. Last year one of our daughters worked there for the summer. My wife takes Isabella and her three year old sister to the park several times a week. On most of those trips they ride the Peanuts Road Rally ride. This year and last year. This ride is one of the mildest kiddie rides in the park. This is not the gas powered Road Rally, its the little miniature cars that ride around on a track like a train. It is not elevated. It moves slowly. DP itself rates the ride a 2 in its Rider Safety Guide. Every ride in the park is a 2 or higher except for the wading pools in Wildwater Kingdom and the new little train they put in this year. Those are the only 1s. I understand there have been some recent tragedies at other parks that have resulted in a heightened awareness of safety. But to equate a man being thrown from a roller coaster to this ride is a real stretch. There is not one requirement in the RSG that Isabella does not meet. Her mother always rides with her. I said that repeatedly in the other forum but most posters ignored it. The RSG does not say the rider has to be able to walk, stand, or brace themself as Mr. McClure stated on TV. You can see this for yourself, as the RSG is available on their web site. He also said they did not go through some "verbal checklist" - whatever that means - and yet no opportunity to do so was ever presented. Isabella sits up straight without assistance. She is not a "hand-held infant". She is a toddler. When we say she's ridden this ride before we don't mean once or twice. We mean dozens of times over this season and last season (when of course she was even smaller). If you go to Dorney, watch the children who are routinely allowed on this ride. A 10-month old was allowed on the same ride Isabella was refused. It is a ride designed for young children, and both common sense and Dorney's RSG would indicate that Isabella is an appropriate rider.

On Friday, when my wife and the two kids got to their turn on the ride they were told by the operator Isabella couldn't ride. My wife says the attendant was rude. My wife asked to speak to a supervisor. This was refused and she was told to go to Guest Services. She did this. This began a bit of a runaround involving Guest Relations and two managers. It was one of these managers who ultimately decided Isabella's appearance, rather than any specific requirement in the RSG, was the reason she could not ride.

Our issue isn't with the attendant, its with the managers. Unfortunately the news story made it sound like we are definately suing the park. So far no, but we might. If we do, it might or might not involve money. If you're familiar with the ADA, it actually specifically disallows monetary damages to plaintiffs. However, Dorney has a poor history of dealing with guests with disabilities, specifically Down Syndrome (and I didn't know this until after this incident) and they have been sued more than once for very similar problems in the past. Information on at least one of those incidents is easily found on the Internet.

Why is this in the news media? We tried to address the matter with the park's management and they were unwilling to help. I tried to speak to someone at Cedar Fair and couldn't get through to them. So we sought help through other channels.

Its been just about a week since the problem occurred. Obviously DP management knows we're taking this seriously. Yet there has been no attempt by them to address our concerns.

Sorry again for the long post, thanks if you took the time to read the whole thing. As I said I'm not here looking for an argument, but if anyone has a question I will try to answer it.

Thank you.

Last edited by JohnP, Friday, July 22, 2011 11:52 AM
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Friday, July 22, 2011 10:22 AM

I'm also not a lawyer, but I have worked in a program that serves children with "developmental delays and disabilities" for almost 20 years. I am HIGHLY sensitive to the plight of the children, and esp. their parents, and they strive for a sense of normalcy and to "fit in".

Nonetheless, parks are magnets for lawsuits of all kinds, some frivolous, others certainly not so. Taking into consdieration the very recent incident at Darien, I'm imagine parks are going to (at least temporarily) err on the side of caution. Further, parks cannot afford to staff every ride with a team of doctors and lawyers to ensure that everyone who is riding is capable of doing so safely - these are judgement decisions made on the spot by people making barely over minimum wage. Handling customers who are distressed takes a very delicate touch....and a parent of a crying child isn't always going to behave in a perfectly rational manner any more than a ride-operator who's had a long stressful day earning next-to-nothing working in the heat and dealing with the occasional upset guest.

That was all intended to serve as background: On the specifics of your case JohnP, I certainly wasn't there and don't know what happened - not qualified to say how this "went down" or how the park handled the situation. But I can say with some certainty that the statement you made is reflective of the CF legal department more than Dorney management: "Obviously DP management knows we're taking this seriously. Yet there has been no attempt by them to address our concerns."

Once something hits the desk of legal, it is virtually certain that no one in management is permitted to talk to your family without risking their job (well, in reality, costing them their job). When the incident at Kentucky Kingdom happened and the young lady was tragically injured, there were comments then about the "uncaring" nature of the park's management team. Unfortunately, it's more the society that we live in that dictates how these situations play out, and not necessarily the individuals who may very well be quite distressed, but have clear direction to talk to NO ONE about the incident(s).

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Friday, July 22, 2011 12:21 PM

(Stands up and applauds Gators monologue!)

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Friday, July 22, 2011 3:04 PM

Thanks for the comments, Rollergator. Such thoughtful comments are what led me to post here myself. While IANAL (I liked that) either, I do work in the corporate management world and I do understand your point.

Interestingly, here is another take on that issue from someone who is a lawyer (an amusement park lawyer at that!) http://legalrollercoaster.blogspot.com/2011/07/what-two-year-old-can-teach-us-about.html

Last edited by JohnP, Friday, July 22, 2011 4:24 PM
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