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Disabled boy not allowed to board an airplane in US

FRESNO, California -- A California family who was not allowed to board their cross-country flight said Tuesday that they were discriminated against because their son has Down syndrome.

Robert Vanderhorst, his wife Joan and 16-year-old son Bede, who is disabled, were flying on American Airlines from Newark to Los Angeles on Sunday when the boy and his parents were not allowed on the plane.

The family, who had upgraded to first class tickets at an airport kiosk, asked the airline to seat the boy and one of his parents together, Vanderhorst said — a request with which the airline complied.

When the family was ready to board, they were stopped by airline personnel, told their son was a “security risk” and would not be allowed on the flight. They protested, but were rebooked on another later flight in coach.

American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said the disabled boy was agitated and running around the gate area prior to boarding — a claim his parents dispute. The airplane's pilot observed the boy, Miller said, and made the call based on his behavior.

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