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Mom Sues Local YMCA for Excluding Her Son With Down Syndrome

A mom in Middletown, Ohio, filed a lawsuit against the Great Miami Valley YMCA on Monday, June 29, on the basis that the organization excluded her son from activities because he has Down syndrome.

When Denise Watts tried to enroll her 6-year-old son, Steven Heffron, in a YMCA summer camp this year, she says the organization refused, even though they’d allegedly used photographs of Steven in their summer promotional materials, The Enquirer reported. Instead of evaluating Steven’s needs and making necessary accommodations, the YMCA suggested Watts look into its program for children with special needs. Additionally, the YMCA refuses to allow Steven to attend its before-school programs and is restricting the time he can spend in the after-school program, according to The Associated Press.

Watts’ lawsuit claims the YMCA violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) by excluding Steven from certain activities because he has Down syndrome and not providing alternative accommodations, The Enquirer reported. The ADA requires public services and programs to modify activities so people with disabilities can participate in and benefit from them, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The lawsuit urges the YMCA to accommodate Steven in all of its activities and seeks undisclosed damages for Watts and her son.

Watts ultimately registered Steven in the YMCA’s camp for children with special needs so he would be able to participate in something this summer, but she says this camp is not ideal for her son’s needs.

He thrives in settings with typically developing children,” Watts said, according to the Associated Press.

Curtis Cornett, an attorney for the YMCA, said in a prepared statement that the organization did not break any laws and only acted in Steven’s best interests, according to The Enquirer.

The Mighty reached out to the Great Miami Valley YMCA for a comment but did not hear back. 

Feature image from Creative Commons.