Luka Hyde, 15, is a regular at his local Great Clips, but when his name was called at his Sunday appointment, his parents say Luka was turned away by the hairdresser.
"She looks at him like he’s nothing, like she’s very disinterested and even disgusted,” said Luka’s father, Greg Hyde.
Luka’s parents say the hairdresser had never met their son before, but she reportedly refused to cut the 15-year-old’s hair - or even look at him - because he has Down syndrome.
“I asked her, ‘Why can’t you cut his hair?' She didn’t respond,” Hyde said. “With no reason given and the look on her face, the only thing you can assume is it’s because of his disability.”
Private businesses cannot refuse service based on a disability, according to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Tennessee Disability Coalition says if the salon did indeed refuse Luka service due to his disability, they are in violation of the law.
"This happens all the time. We just happen to be parents who do something about it,” said Deborah Rausch, Luka’s mother.
The family says the salon owner told them the hairdresser quit after she was confronted about the incident.
Great Clips would not comment on the woman’s employment status, but they say they are taking the allegations seriously and do not tolerate discrimination.
“If nothing else, it has given us an opportunity to have a conversation and say that’s not OK,” Rausch said.
Luka’s parents say their son isn’t letting the incident dull his spirit.
"He will forget that, we will forget it but she won’t. Her life is far worse than ours will ever be because she has hate in her somewhere,” Hyde said.
The family previously won a lawsuit against Hamilton County Schools for violating Luka’s rights as a student. The school district wanted to move the teenager out of his home-zoned school to a segregated classroom, which the court found to be “unnecessarily restrictive” in violation of federal law.
Luka’s parents say they will continue to fight for equal access for their son, whether that’s in a classroom or a private business.
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