Thursday’s theme was social justice, it seemed, as two different rallies hit LMU’s campus during Convo. One was a Zero Tolerance for Bias, Ignorance and Hate March, scheduled as a part of Zero Tolerance Week. The other, led by senior theatre arts major Bianca “Binky” Vanderhorst, was in reaction to perceived injustice toward her brother following his prohibition from boarding a cross-country flight. Her brother, 16-year-old Bede, has Down syndrome.
American Airlines’ side of the story
Robert and Joan Vanderhorst, Binky and Bede’s parents, and Bede Vanderhorst were not allowed to board a cross-country flight on American Airlines on Sunday, Sept. 2. The airline alleges that prior to boarding, Bede was “yelling and running around the gate area – he seemed very agitated,” according to a post on their Facebook page. The post added that after several attempts to calm the teen down, “our customer service team, as well as flight crew, made the difficult decision that it wasn’t best for the teen to travel at that time.” American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller is quoted in a Sept. 4 USA Today article as saying, “He was not ready to fly, that was our perspective. We rebooked the family out of concern for the young man’s safety and that of other passengers as well.”
The Vanderhorsts’ side of the story
Bede’s parents, Robert and Joan, disagree with the airline’s assessment of the situation. According to the same USA Today article, “they believe they were discriminated against because their son has Down syndrome. … [Robert] Vanderhorst said his son did not run at any time, did not make any loud noises and didn’t display any other offensive behaviors.” The family eventually flew on a different flight, with a different airline, and was “placed in the last row and no passengers were allowed to sit within two rows of them,” according to the article.
In response, Binky Vanderhorst led a protest from Alumni Mall on LMU’s campus to LAX International Airport. In the Facebook event she created for the protest, titled “It’s not gunna fly,” the event description reads, “My little brother wasn’t allowed to board the flight my father paid for, because it was [first] class, and he has [D]own syndrome. This discrimination deserves a response.”
During the protest, Vanderhorst told the Loyolan, “I hope to raise awareness that this happened and that it’s not okay. There are a lot of people that care. American Airlines should apologize to the disabled community.”