Dakota Nafzinger has been blind since birth, having been born without eyes. The 8-year-old has been using a school-provided cane to help him get around Gracemor Elementary School, located in North Kansas City, Missouri. There is a problem, though — a bus driver said he hit another child with it, so the school decided to take the cane away from him and provided a pool noodle for him to use instead for the next two weeks.
Read that again. They gave a blind child a pool noodle to use to get around the school. A pool noodle. A pool noodle!
The district confirmed to FOX 4 that they had decided to take the cane, considered school property, as punishment for the alleged incident on the bus. To some extent, I can understand removing school property from a child who is misusing it. In some way, it sounds almost logical.
However, in no way, on any planet, do I think it's OK to remove an assistive device from a disabled child, school property or not. If the boy uses a wheelchair, and the school was providing him with one for whatever reason, should they be allowed to dump the boy out on the ground because he purposely ran over someone's toes? Of course not.
And giving him a pool noodle may be the nuttiest part of this story. A pool noodle does not function the same as a white cane for the visually impaired, and as Dakota's parents have pointed out, it calls even more attention to him, and they suspect the school is trying to humiliate him.
If he was whacking his schoolmates on the bus just for the heck of it, yes, he would need to be disciplined — but don't take away what has become his way of seeing the world. School officials must be educated and trained to correct negative behavior for all children. However, his father said that Dakota often raises up the cane, and he thought that the bus driver mistook the motion for aggression.
Either way, removing the cane from the boy is cruel and unusual punishment. Happily a cane has since been donated to his family, but I do wonder if they will take legal action against the school.
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