An eight-year-old blind student’s punishment from Gracemor Elementary School has caused uproar with parents. The North Kansas City school confiscated Dakota Nafzinger’s walking stick and replaced it with a pool noodle. The school’s disciplinary actions went viral causing pandemonium on social media as the parents protested the return of their son’s walking stick.
According to Gracemor’s website the school is a place where they foster child-centered partnerships with students, parents and the community. Their goal is to work together to ensure not only academic success but personal growth for each student. The site states the mission of the school is to institute a supportive, safe and respectful learning community which embraces life-long learning. Gracemor works to create a culturally responsive environment where students are valued and supported.
This is not what many believe was the motive when Dakota’s cane was ripped away from him. School officials said the punishment was only for two weeks. The child’s stick was taken after he reportedly hit another student with it. His family admits that sometimes the eight-year-old fidgets with his cane and lifts it in the air but would not intentionally hurt anyone with it. The child, who was born without eyes, could not navigate accurately with the pool noodle because he could not “feel” his surroundings.
Michelle Cronk, spokeswoman for the School District, said the bus driver thought the child was using the cane violently so they took away his walking stick. The walking stick was school property which was given to the child when he enrolled. Cronk added, “Dakota fidgets without his cane so he was given a pool noodle because he needed something to hold.” The boy’s father, Donald, believes the cane was removed in order to humiliate him for his behavior. He added:
He is a good little guy all around and should not be treated the way he is being treated.
Dakota, according to his mother Rachel, is a normal kid who has Bilateral Anopthalmia. He loves to swim, fish and sing. It takes more work for him due to his blindness but he still tries. Dakota said the school told him they were giving him the pool noodle for the next two weeks however, he had a difficult time trying to use it as a guiding device.
The child was written up for misbehaving on the bus but Rachel does not understand why the school would take the one thing he needs all the time. “The walking stick is his eyes,” said Rachel, “…if fail to stand up for him who will?” She added:
In just eight years my son has gone through so much already and I just do not like someone else putting Dakota in that position.
As the student’s story went viral hundreds of people reached out to the family to offer help for Dakota. People offered to buy him his own walking stick and to express their anger for the treatment the child endured.
The North Kansas City School District apologized to the family and wanted to rectify the situation. Officials from the school surprised Donald and Rachel with a visit to their home to return Dakota’s cane. Rachel said she is so grateful for the outpouring of support she received on social media and to FOX 4 for making the story public.
by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)