An elementary school in Kansas City, Missouri, has apologized to an 8-year-old blind boy for taking his cane after he used it on the school bus in a way that the driver deemed violent. The child's parents -- and people across the country -- were outraged when they learned the school replaced his school-issued cane with a foam swimming pool noodle.
Members of the North Kansas City School District reportedly took responsibility for doling out a punishment to Dakota Nafzinger that didn’t fit the crime. Dakota’s father, Donald Nafzinger, says his son was listening to music on the bus and often taps his cane to the music. Instead of tapping it, Dakota reportedly threw it up in the air and the driver took the cane away from him because he feared the child was being violent.
Nafzinger says his son was upset because he needed the cane to get around, reports ABC News, and that the cane is “his eyes.”
Dakota was born with no eyes and suffers from a rare condition called bilateral anophthalmia. His mother and father were angry after learning he would have to use the swimming pool noodle in place of his cane and made the decision to alert the media because they felt their child was being treated in an unfair manner.
Days later, the school district released the following statement and made the call to return Dakota’s cane to him:
The District has reviewed the situation. We regret that a mistake was made in making sure the student was in possession of his cane when he boarded the bus Monday evening. The District has apologized to the family and is working to rectify the situation. When we were made aware of the mistake, corrections were made. It is always the District’s policy when we become aware of situations like this, we thoroughly and immediately investigate to ensure a safe learning environment for all students.
Despite the apology, Dakota’s parents say they are still unsure of whether they will send their child back to the school after the holiday break, reports Fox CT. Meanwhile, the National Federation of the Blind has donated a new cane to the family and has offered to help educate the District on how its staff members can handle situations like this one in the future.