The North Kansas City School District has apologized to the parents of an 8-year-old blind boy whose cane was taken away by a school bus driver Monday morning.
The unidentified driver confiscated the walking stick after Dakota Nafzinger allegedly struck a bus aide with it.
As punishment for the bus incident, school officials gave him a foam swimming pool “noodle” to help guide his steps. Parents Rachel and Donald Nafzinger have said on social media and in media reports that the actions of school officials were humiliating and made their son’s mobility difficult.
Born without eyes, Dakota uses a cane to help him “feel” where he is going.
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An international storm of protest on social media erupted after a TV news report early in the week.
Commenters on Twitter and Facebook said taking his cane away was “disgusting,” “cruel” and worse.
“Whatever happened to kindness & decency?” Alannah of Chichester, England, responded on the website of London’s Daily Mail newspaper.
The Nafzingers also received many offers from strangers to buy their son a cane of his own.
Neither parent responded to a request for comment on Thursday. But on her Facebook page Thursday morning, Rachel Nafzinger posted a note of thanks.
“To everyone who offered to help Dakota Nafzinger with a new cane we thank you,” she wrote. “I think he’s covered but if you want to help please donate that $15 to ccvi or any local blind school or blind foundation in his name. There are lots of children going without.”
CCVI is the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired in Kansas City, the school Dakota attended before transferring to Gracemor Elementary. The price of canes advertised at medical supply stores is about $15.
Officials at the center did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The superintendent of the Kansas School for the Blind, where Dakota’s mother hopes he will go to school next year, declined to comment.
In response to the initial story on WDAF-TV, Fox 4, a spokeswoman for the North Kansas City district said the cane was taken away because officials feared he would hurt someone else or himself with it.
But by midweek, she would not discuss the incident, citing a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.
However, the district did say in a written statement that it was a mistake not to return the boy’s cane when he got on the bus Monday evening. It was reportedly returned to him later.
“The district has apologized to the family and is working to rectify the situation,” the statement said. “When we were made aware of the mistake, corrections were made.”