Salvador Lanuza, a 17-year-old with autism who is described by his sister Samantha as “a huge Michael Jordan fan.”
Hersheypark denied access last week to a 9-year-old autistic boy because he wasn’t wearing a face covering.
His mother took video of his emotional reaction after being turned away, explaining that her son has severe asthma, autism and has been treated for having fluid in his brain.
In the video, Pamela Heinbaugh of Linglestown, Pennsylvania, said park security “denied us entry to the park because my disabled child … can’t wear a mask.” She went on to say, “He has severe asthma, so he can’t cover his face, and as you can see, he’s autistic, so he won’t wear anything on his head.”
As she described what happened, she videotaped her son crying. The video, as of Wednesday afternoon, has had more than 200,000 views and thousands of shares.
Attempts to reach the Heinbaughs were unsuccessful.
Hersheypark, which opened to the general public July 3, released a lengthy statement in response, explaining its rules.
The statement said, in part, “Our COVID-19 health and safety policy mandates face coverings for all guests and team members and provides an accommodation for those who can’t wear a covering by permitting use of a face shield. Everyone over the age of 2 will need to have either a face covering or face shield to enter the park. … Citing the public health priority, this position has also been viewed favorably by the external autism, disability and accessibility agencies with which we work.
“Our policy is meant to protect the health and safety of all of our guests and team members at Hersheypark. It is being followed by many of our peers in our industry, including national and international amusement parks, and is consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which allows businesses to impose legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operations when a direct threat, like COVID-19, has been established.”
In Heinbaugh’s video, she said that she and another child “were legally wearing masks because we do not have any medical conditions that prevent us from wearing them.”
Kim Strong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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