Nicho Fajardo was happily jumping in a bounce house right up to the moment his family was told children like Nicho weren't welcome.
As CBS Los Angeles reports, the 11-year-old from California has Down syndrome. Nicho's sitter, Erika Ganier, brought Nicho to a pumpkin patch in Van Nuys, California, where the young boy was running and playing like the other children there.
But the staff at the pumpkin patch insisted that Nicho leave, explaining that “kids like him” can get hurt and aren't permitted to play there.
In the video below, Garnier told CBS Los Angeles that she was furious:
“The other children are running around and jumping and we have to leave.”
Not wanting to upset Nicho, Garnier told him they needed to go somewhere else — though not before arguing with the staff. As she wrote on Facebook:
"I refused to make Nicho get out, stating that he was as capable as any other child of safely having fun just like all these other kids. He said, 'They don’t know how to listen, see, he’s not even listening to you.' (This was right after I told Nicho we were going to go to another pumpkin patch; I kept it casual and upbeat with Nicho because I didn’t want him to get scared).
I said, 'He does listen to me but look around at all this visual fun, he’s a kid, he’s having fun like all the other children here and he doesn’t want to leave.' [...] I tell Nicho that they don’t have the right pumpkins for Samm (his sister) so we are going to have to find a different pumpkin patch and we’ll get icees (I’m trying to coax him into leaving)! He is so disappointed. I get his disappointment! I am so angry but I can’t express my feelings."
The manager of the pumpkin patch told CBS Los Angeles that Nicho's family was making “a federal case” about the incident and claimed that Garnier was loud and argumentative when asked to leave. He explained that families of children with special needs should call ahead before visiting the pumpkin patch.
The owner of the pumpkin patch called Nicho's parents and left a message apologizing for the incident. However, in the recording of the message obtained by CBS Los Angeles, the owner also echoes the manager's claim that children with special needs need to make an appointment to visit the pumpkin patch:
“You make arrangements for him to be, a day ahead of time, to where it’s not busy because you now how kids are bullies and stuff.”
Nicho's parents insist that it's unfair and discriminatory to single out their son because of his disability. While Nicho has forgotten about the incident, they will not. As his mother told CBS Los Angeles:
“It’s just upsetting you know. My son’s always been an inclusion kid, to think people still nowadays treat him different, I’m glad I wasn’t there to see his reaction.”
Sandra Baker, an advocate for children with Down syndrome, told CBS Los Angeles that the pumpkin patch likely violated the law when they kicked Nicho out:
“There’s no legal reason that you could possibly do that, exclude a child from participating in any activity. He could have a day where it’s specifically for children with disabilities but you also have to welcome them any day, any day that you have an activity.”
Watch the story below, via CBS Los Angeles.