Student with epilepsy now allowed on overseas trip with classmates after first being told ‘no’

WINDSOR, Colo. – A family in Windsor was devastated after they say their sixth-grade son was told he could not go on an overseas trip with other students because of his medical conditions.

Thirteen-year-old Ozark Shaffett moved to Colorado with his family two years ago from Louisiana. They made the move so Ozark could legally take cannabis oil to control the symptoms of epilepsy.

“He was in a wheelchair. He had a feeding tube. He couldn’t attend school,” his mother Heather Shaffett told FOX31.

Ozark now takes CBD oil, prescription pharmaceuticals and has a VNS, which is a pacemaker-like device for the brain. The combination has helped him manage his seizures to the point where he can now ride a bicycle, play the bass guitar and travel internationally.

“I want to head to this place called France and Spain,” Ozark said.

A teacher at his school is leading a trip to Paris, Barcelona and Madrid in June 2020. The trip is organized through an outside tour company and is not a school or district sponsored trip.

“I’ve always wanted to go there, so it was a dream come true,” Ozark said.

However, his dream seemed out of reach right from the start. Heather says she was told the teacher leading the group felt uncomfortable with his medical conditions and medications.

“It’s absolute heartbreak and devastation. My first instinct was to cry,” she said. “He is absolutely being treated differently than any other child.”

Heather planned to go with her son on the trip as a medical chaperone. They also were planning to leave the CBD oil at home in Colorado. She says they were still told, "no."

“It just isn’t fair. Other kids get to go and it just isn’t right,” Ozark said.

The Problem Solvers reached out to the teacher and to the tour company. The company responded, saying that they do not have a policy in place barring children with specific medical needs from traveling.

While the Problem Solvers were with the Shaffetts, the tour operator called the family to go over a compromise.

They agreed to make Heather a group leader and Ozark would be her participant. That way, she would assume all legal responsibility and liability for his health and safety while abroad. The two would be grouped with Ozark's classmates for transportation, tours, hotels, meals and all other facets of the trip.

“For the tour company to reach out to us and offer us an alternative solution really touches my heart,” Heather said. “I was actually preparing my heart for an absolute no.”

She says it means the world to her to see her son so happy and to see him have the chance to experience the same educational opportunities as the other students.

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