Mom says salon discriminated against son with Down syndrome

Posted at 7:05 AM, Nov 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-22 07:05:07-05

NEW BERLIN, WI (WITI/CNN) – A Wisconsin mother is upset after a hair salon canceled an appointment for her son, who has Down syndrome, saying she should take him somewhere else for haircuts.

After booking a hair appointment for her son Matthew, mother Katlyn Oelke received an email from A Hair for Kids Salon in New Berlin, WI, canceling it.

The email said, in part, the stylist booked felt they were not a “good fit” for Oelke’s needs and those of Matthew, who has Down syndrome.

Oelke says she shared the email online with the Milwaukee County Disabilities Support Group, and the story blew up on social media. Some people said they wrote bad reviews about the salon online.

"I was upset when I got the email,” Oelke said. "Then when I went to the group… everybody was just in uproar about it because basically how we took it is discrimination against a child with disabilities."

The hair salon’s owner tried to explain, saying their notes on Matthew list how he reacts to haircuts, and the stylist Oelke booked didn’t think she could handle the behavior.

"Basically, all that it was about is the stylist that was able to work with a child that's moving because we don't want to injure anybody,” said hairstylist Justine Rossey.

Rossey, who works at the salon and has cut Matthew’s hair in the past, says she wasn’t available during the appointment time. She says the online booking system is partly to blame because it doesn’t sort the right stylists with the needs of the customers.

Oelke says the owner should have explained all of this instead of sending a vague message.

"If she would have called, explained her concerns – because not once was safety brought up. until people were getting at her,” Oelke said. "And I get it. He can be difficult. But he's afraid. It's not like he's destructive. It's not like he's hurting anybody.”

Rossey called Matthew’s mom to tell her she’d like to cut the boy’s hair again. Oelke says she’d still like to hear from the salon’s owner.

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