Feds Settle With Gymnastics School They Say Canceled Child’s Birthday
NORWOOD, N.J. — A Bergen County gymnastics school accused of canceling a child’s birthday party after learning the youth and guests had disabilities reached a settlement with federal officials over the complaint, the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office said earlier this month.
Paragon School of Artistic Gymnastics of Norwood violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by “refusing to make reasonable modifications to its program and then excluding children on the basis of disability,” according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito’s office.
The case stemmed from a complaint that Paragon required parents of any child with a disability who wanted to take part in a birthday party at the gym to provide a “shadow” for the kid throughout the event, officials said. The requirement applied regardless of the child’s disability or specific needs.
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Under the ADA, “places of public accommodation such as Paragon must make reasonable modifications to policies and practices to permit persons with disabilities to participate in its services,” according to federal officials.
“Places of public accommodation also cannot impose additional eligibility criteria or a surcharge on persons with a disability wishing to participate in its goods and services, and cannot deny access to good and services to people associated with someone with a disability,” the statement said.
Under the settlement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Paragon agreed to put in place various policies to make sure children with disabilities are “afforded full and equal opportunities to participate in and benefit from its programs and parties,” officials said.
Paragon must also publish information on its website about its policy on the prohibition of discriminating against those with disabilities and provide ADA training to its staff.
The gym will also pay $3,000 in damages to the child, $2,000 to the complainant’s parents and a $1,000 civil penalty to the U.S. government, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Paragon’s owner issued a statement in response to the settlement.
“Paragon Gymnastics always has, and always will, accept children of all abilities as students into our programs. We remain eager to serve our community in the best and safest way possible,” owner Renee Pendergast said in an email.
Federal officials said ADA complaints can be filed online and more information is available by calling 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD).
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