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Mom claims Sevier County attraction told family to leave due to daughter's special needs

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - A Sevier County tourist attraction has responded to claims posted to Facebook by a mother saying her young daughter was turned away because of her special needs.

Melissa Beebe posted to the social media platform that a tour guide at Forbidden Caverns told her and her children to leave and ask for a refund because her autistic daughter was laughing and clapping.

"I started crying because I’ve never experienced blatant discrimination or been kicked out of anywhere. I had to walk past everyone on the way out while I was confused and crying," wrote Beebe in the post.

Beebe, whose Facebook profile says is from Louisiana, went on to say that no one offered her an apology and others who had been calling Forbidden Caverns were told that special needs children were not allowed on the tour "because they can't be controlled."

Her post has generated more than 4,500 comments and has been shared more than 20,000 times.

In a statement, also posted to Facebook, from Forbidden Caverns, management says that is not true and they frequently escort thousands of children through the cave, many of whom have special needs.

Forbidden Caverns first opened its doors to visitors in 1967 and since then we have taken over two million visitors on an underground adventure to see nature’s handiwork at its best.

The enjoyment and safety of our visitors is always a our first priority. Keeping with this policy, it is paramount that before each journey underground we conduct a safety lesson by a trained guide for the group. During this talk it is important that everyone be able to understand all instructions and be able to complete the tour, and if any guest feels that they cannot comply with the instructions or feel uncomfortable they may get a full refund. This is rare, but we want to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all our guests.

It is also our policy that we will make every effort to accommodate our guests with special needs as we have taken thousands of guests with varying abilities and disabilities into the cave so they can have the best experience. Forbidden Caverns does not and will not tolerate discrimination of any means.

It has come to our knowledge that we were accused of not allowing children with special needs to enter the cave, this could be further from the truth, as every year we escort thousands of children from schools across the region many of whom have special needs. We are a family attraction and take accusations of this nature to heart and truly want to be an experience that all can enjoy.

Sincerely, 
The Management Team


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