SOUTH PARK — A local mother asked Channel 11 to hide her identity, but said she felt it was important to go public with her story in hopes other children with special needs aren’t turned away from spaces like a church or Sunday school.
A’leesia Davenport, 13, and her family, including her 10-year-old brother Kamrin, just started attending Peters Creek Baptist Church in South Park.
For nearly two months, they said they all felt welcome. A’leesia and Kamrin even attended Sunday school.
“Every time we attend service, they tell me there are no issues with my daughter. Everything is good; she’s lovely,” Davenport’s mother said.
But according to the family, a recent phone call from the church told a different story.
“I was actually quite shocked it was someone from children’s church, and they told me my daughter was too much to handle,” the mother said.
According to this upset mother, she was told that her daughter, who has Down syndrome, was a safety risk and needed an aid to attend Sunday school with her. Without one, Davenport wouldn’t be welcome back, her mother said.
“Throughout the conversation, she basically asked if I had a TSS that could show up at the church for her, and if I didn’t have any resources that I could figure out on my own that she would not be able to come to church. And if she can’t go to church, that means my family can’t go to church,” the mother said.
The Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply to religious organizations and entities controlled by religious organizations. In other words, churches do not have to be accessible to people with disabilities.
Channel 11 reached out to Peters Creek Baptist Church for comment, but the calls and messages have yet to be returned.
“It just feels extremely biased. Churches, in general, preach the whole unity and come as you are. To be told my daughter isn’t accepted there is a complete slap in the face,” the mother said.
In the meantime, Davenport and her family are now in search of a new house of worship. One they pray accepts everybody.
“There are so many people like her, people with Down syndrome in this community, and they don’t have a voice. It’s our job as parents, it should be the churches’ job, it should be teachers’ jobs, it should be everyday people in the community who stick up for kids like this,” the mother added.