Dakota Nafzinger, age eight, was born with bilateral anopthalmia, which means he has no eyes. Normally he uses a cane to get around, but on Monday of this week, a staff member at Gracemor Elementary School in Kansas City took his cane away on the bus as punishment and replaced it with a pool noodle.
From a Missouri Fox affiliate:
North Kansas City School District Spokeswoman Michelle Cronk confirmed taking away Dakota's cane, calling it school property that was given to him when he enrolled. They said they took it away after he reportedly hit someone with it and wanted to prevent him from hurting himself or others.
His family said it was a way to humiliate him for misbehaving.
Dakota sounds like a highly competent young fellow—he loves to "fish and swim," according to family—but I mean: I'd probably hit people with my cane all the time purely on accident if I were eyeless and eight years old. Additionally, kids on the bus hit each other constantly and are not punished by means that will put them in constant physical danger.
Nevertheless, Dakota spent all the next day trying to navigate via pool noodle, until local news picked up the story ("They said they were going to give me this for the next two weeks," said Dakota) and an outcry forced the school to apologize.
"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," wrote Gracemor on their Facebook page. "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."
Admirably ballsy use of the passive voice there. People in Kansas City have reportedly since chipped in to buy Dakota a cane that is not school property and would presumably be harder to take away for two weeks at a time.
Image via screengrab.