Hersheypark denies entry to boy with autism because of mask rules

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HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) — Hersheypark denied entry last week to a mother and her autistic son, whom she said can’t wear a face mask.

In a Facebook video, Pamela Heinbaugh said, “Denied us entry to the park because my disabled child — which if you can’t tell, this should give it away — can’t wear a mask.” Her 9-year-old son appeared upset in the video.

Heinbaugh said her family has been to Hersheypark several times with no problems. She said she is not looking for anything other than to be allowed in with her son.

“They said it’s a private establishment and they have a right to refuse us entry,” she said on the video, saying that she saw “multiple people walk through the entrance not wearing a mask.”

Face masks are required to be worn in public spaces in Pennsylvania. Hersheypark says it allows the use of face shields if a person can’t wear a mask due to health reasons.

Said Heinbaugh: “He has severe asthma so he can’t cover his face, and as you can see, he’s autistic so he won’t wear anything on his head.”

“A face mask, a face shield, it’s still got pressure on the head, it’s still out of the ordinary,” said Mark Davis, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disability.

Davis said it’s a tough situation. He said he believes Hersheypark is looking out for the best interest of its guests and workers, while Heinbaugh is looking out for her son.

“I think it’s a person at a time, and I know most businesses can’t afford to take it a person at a time, but with a person with a disability, that’s how you have to take it,” said Davis.

Hersheypark said in a Facebook statement: “We believe our universal face covering policy is aligned with the Governor’s overarching goal to keep people safe and our own mandate to protect the health and safety of our guests and team members at Hersheypark. This policy is being applied uniformly to everyone and is an important safeguard for those who choose to work with us or honor us with a visit.”

The park’s precautions include more cleaning, adding 300 hand sanitizers, temperature screenings, managing the number of people in the park, enforcing social distancing and requiring face coverings.

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