Disabled teenage girl denied trip to Disneyland

By: Bob D Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Updated:

A 14-year-old California girl who attends a special education class was denied a chance to go to Disneyland on a school field trip because the bus transporting the students did not have a wheelchair lift, her parents claim. 

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Madison Wolanyk was born with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and autism and needs a wheelchair, KGTV reported. When her class at Hilltop Middle School in San Diego attended Disneyland on a field trip in February, Wolanyk was not part of the group.

Her father, Eugene Wolanyk, said he didn't find out about the excursion until the morning of the field trip, KGTV reported. He said he learned about it after his daughter’s school bus pulled up to their Chula Vista home.

Madison wasn't taking the bus that morning because of a scheduled doctor's appointment. The bus driver was surprised, Wolanyk said.

"He said, 'Why? She's not going to Disneyland?'" Wolanyk told KGTV. "What trip to Disneyland?"

Wolanyk called the middle school and spoke with the vice principal.

"He just told me very matter-of-factly there's like 100 students going so we couldn't get the lift for the bus, so that's why Madison's not going," Wolanyk told KGTV.

Wolanyk was livid, especially after that same vice principal gave him an envelope with two complimentary tickets for Disneyland that expired that day. It was too late to pack up the family van and drive two hours to Disneyland, so Wolanyk called the school's principal, who initially told him Madison said she didn't want to go.

However, Madison denied that.

Eugene Wolanyk said he believed the school wasn't taking his complaint seriously, so he filed a claim with the Sweetwater Union High School District. The claim states Madison also missed last year's special education trip to Disneyland for the same reason.

The claim, which was rejected by the district, says school personnel violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by failing to accommodate Madison, KGTV reported. The alleged discrimination led to Madison's "emotional distress."

The claim states Madison's taxpayer-funded one-on-one aide was allowed to attend the Disneyland trip, while Madison was left behind.

Eugene Wolanyk called the school's actions "cruel."

"I want Madison to be given every opportunity that every other child has, especially since she's on a trajectory of attending high school until she's 22," Wolanyk told KGTV. "So I asked them why do I always have to be holding the bag?"

KGTV reported that the middle school used a charter bus for the special education trip to Disneyland. District spokesman Manuel Rubio declined to comment on the Wolanyks' claim, saying the district does not comment on pending legal matters.

A Disneyland spokesman said the park has offered to host Madison and her family with "park hopper" tickets.

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