KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two North Kansas City parents are outraged after they say their blind son’s cane was taken away from him at school by a bus driver.
Eight-year-old Dakota Nafzinger attends Gracemor Elementary School. Rachel Nafzinger said school staff took away her son’s cane as punishment for bad behavior on the bus and then gave him a swimming pool noodle to use as a substitute.
The school wouldn’t go on camera, but North Kansas City School District Spokeswoman Michelle Cronk confirmed taking away Dakota’s cane, calling it school property that was given to him when he enrolled. They said they took it away after he reportedly hit someone with it and wanted to prevent him from hurting himself or others.
His family said it was a way to humiliate him for misbehaving.
They say Dakota is like any other 8-year-old, only he was born without eyes — something in the medical world known as Bilateral Anopthalmia. Still, Dakota loves to sing, fish and swim — despite the extra work those activities require from someone who is blind.
“It’s a lot harder with this,” he said, indicating the swimming pool noodle he’s now having to use. He said it’s not doing much good.
“Why would you do that? Why would you take the one thing that he’s supposed to use all the time? That’s his eyes,” his mother said.
Cronk said Dakota hit somebody with his cane on Monday while riding the bus. When asked why a pool noodle was given to him as a substitute, Cronk said Dakota fidgets and needed something to hold.
“They said they were going to give me this for the next two weeks,” Dakota said.
Dakota’s mother said he was written up for misbehaving on the bus, but she said she doesn’t understand why his punishment was to take away the thing he needs the most.
“He’s gone through so much in his life already, 8 years, 8 years, and I just don’t like someone else putting my son in that position,” she said.
Dakota’s father, Donald Nafzinger, said his son simply lifts his cane sometimes and the bus driver thought he was using it violently.
“All around, he’s a good little guy, and he shouldn’t be treated the way he’s being treated,” he said.
On Tuesday Dakota attended his sister’s concert with nothing but a pool noodle to guide him around.
“Can’t feel things,” he said.
“If I don’t stand up for him, who is going to?” his mother asked.
After Dakota’s story aired, a viewer immediately called and expressed an interest in buying Dakota his very own cane. In the hours following, hundreds more expressed an interest in helping Dakota.
Fast forward to Wednesday. The North Kansas City School District released a statement that read in part:
“The District has reviewed the situation. We regret that a mistake was made in making sure the student was in possession of his cane when he boarded the bus Monday evening.
The District has apologized to the family and is working to rectify the situation.”
Dakota mother said school officials actually made a surprise visit to their home Wednesday morning and returned the cane that was taken away from him.
“I’m so grateful, grateful to FOX 4, grateful to Facebook and social media,” Rachel said. “It’s spread like wildfire, and it’s all for my son, and so he got what he wanted and hopefully more, so thank you … thank you to everybody.”