Swim academy says 10-year-old with disability can’t take lessons, mom says

CHARLOTTE — A family said they’re heartbroken after a local swim academy told them their child could no longer take lessons there.

Juliana Porter said she was told her 10-year-old daughter, Lily, could no longer take lessons at Charlotte Swim Academy off Monroe Road because of her disability.

“For lack of a better word, it felt discriminatory,” Porter said.

Lily has a chromosome deletion, causing an intellectual disability. But her mother says Lily is not physically limited. She rides horses, does ballet, and loves to swim.

“She is obsessed with water,” Porter said.

Porter said Lily has taken lessons at the academy over the past two years. She said she’s never been told about any issues.

But when she signed Lily up for this summer, Porter received an email saying, “unfortunately, we are not able to accommodate Lily’s special needs.” The email went on to say “we no longer have instructors who have experience with special needs children.”

Porter said that wouldn’t be an issue for Lily.

“Would someone who knows how to work with disabilities be great? Absolutely,” she said. “But in this instance, she doesn’t need anyone special. She can work with anyone.”

The executive director at Charlotte Swim Academy spoke to Channel 9′s Hunter Sáenz at length Thursday off camera. She maintains that she doesn’t have staff this summer who are experienced in working with kids with disabilities, and said she tried to help Porter find another swim academy with adequate instructors.

The executive director also said there’s not a blanket policy for kids with disabilities and that each decision is made on a case-by-case basis. She said she made this decision in the best interest of the children.

Porter said she and Lily are still disappointed and hope there’s a lesson here.

“The owner seems like a sweet lady, but her practices are just wrong and hurtful,” she said.

The academy owner told Sáenz she hopes the change is just for this season and that she can hire staff soon who are experienced in coaching kids with disabilities. Porter said if that happens, she would consider going back. She said in years past, her family’s experience there has been amazing.

(WATCH BELOW: NC Court of Appeals upholds dismissal of parent’s lawsuit over private school’s diversity policies)

Hunter Sáenz

Hunter Sáenz, wsoctv.com

Hunter is a reporter for Channel 9.

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