Society

8-Year-Old Girl Denied Enrollment In Dance Studio Because She Has Down Syndrome, New York Family Says (Video)

| by Jared Keever

A New York couple says their daughter, who has Down syndrome, will just keep dancing along even though she was told recently by a local dance studio that she couldn’t attend because of her condition (video below).

Tricia and Jason Winnicki, of Lancaster, New York, told WIVB in a video interview the dance instructor's decision was upsetting. 

“He told me, ‘I really don’t think we would be comfortable with that,’” Tricia said of the phone conversation with the studio’s owner. 

“We don’t have any way to manage her in our studios,” Tricia told WIVB the owner said. “There are special schools for people like her, and she should go find one of those schools.”

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Their 8-year-old daughter, Anna, loves to dance and she has for six years, they said.

Jason, who works in education, said he felt Anna should have been given a chance at the studio. 

“That’s not OK,” Jason said of the decision. “She’s a kid. Everyone should get the same chance to try things and to be a part of things. Whether that’s dancing with her, whether that’s playing soccer, whether it’s going to school or trying to get a job, it shouldn’t matter about a disability. It should be about let’s let people try. Let’s help them be successful.”

The parents said Anna will be re-enrolled in the studio she has been attending for the past few years. They did not say why they were looking to make a change in the first place.

WIVB did not report the name of the studio that declined to let Anna attend because the owner reportedly could not be reached for comment. 

Tricia said the recent incident was one the family had not had to deal with before. 

“It makes you realize that you have to express to someone your child’s disability and see if they will accept them,” she said. “And that was just a really horrible thing. Anna has always been accepted everywhere, you know, at the grocery store, at the library, when are walking down the sidewalk, there’s big smiles from everyone. And to have someone on the other line to say, keep your daughter where she is, she needs to be managed, is a horrible feeling.”

But the parents might take heart that Anna has received a rather generous outpouring of support.

Since WIVB posted Anna’s story to its Facebook page, the story has drawn more than 350 comments, most of them supportive. 

“Shame on that dance studio!” wrote Facebook user Sarah Pillitieri Ruffino. “It’s their loss she would bring a smile to anyone's face after watching the news clip! Hats off to the parents for keeping her active!”

“This breaks my heart,” Facebook user Tiffany Routhier Thorman said. “Every child should have the right to dance.”

The story has been shared on Facebook more than 1,500 times and “liked” by more than 600 users. 

Sources: WIVB, YouTube, WIVB/Facebook / Photo credit: Screenshot via YouTube