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Allegheny

Carrick mom wants more than words after daughter was taunted by Kennywood employees

| Thursday, July 12, 2018, 4:12 p.m.
A mother from Pittsburgh’s Carrick neighborhood wants more than an apology a week after her 14-year-old daughter and an adult family friend say they were taunted by Kennywood employees outside the park and on a Port Authority bus. (Tribune-Review)
A mother from Pittsburgh’s Carrick neighborhood wants more than an apology a week after her 14-year-old daughter and an adult family friend say they were taunted by Kennywood employees outside the park and on a Port Authority bus. (Tribune-Review)

A mother from Pittsburgh’s Carrick neighborhood wants more than an apology a week after her 14-year-old daughter and an adult family friend say they were taunted by Kennywood employees outside the park and on a Port Authority bus.

Kennywood officials treated the taunting as “kids being kids” and haven’t done enough to address the issue, said the girl’s mother, Jennifer Gaito, 36.

“They did nothing. They dropped the ball completely,” she said.

Kennywood is looking into the incident. The amusement park, in a statement, called the behavior described by Gaito, her daughter and their friend as “completely unacceptable.” Nick Paradise, a spokesman for Kennywood, said the park is trying to identify the people involved.

“We are extremely disappointed to hear of the incident alleged to have occurred on the bus Thursday night. Though this incident did not take place on park property, Kennywood expects a high standard of behavior from our staff, whether working or on their personal time,” the park said in the statement about the incident last week.

Last Thursday was supposed to be a fun day for Gaito’s daughter and a friend of the family who has disabilities and uses a scooter to get around. The friend doesn’t want to be identified but is like an aunt to Gaito’s daughter.

Gaito didn’t accompany them on their trip to Kennywood, which was cut short by a storm that closed the park early. The pair were getting on a Port Authority bus with a group of about 10 teens and young adults who were Kennywood employees, Gaito said her daughter told her.

They were “really rude and ignorant,” Gaito said.

“My daughter was crying; that made them taunt her worse,” Gaito said.

The bus ended up pulling over in Oakland, where the hecklers were transferred to another bus by Port Authority police, Gaito said.

Port Authority spokesman Adam Brandolph confirmed that police were called and removed some people from the bus to separate those involved. Brandolph said there are no changes and no report related to the incident.

Gaito said the Port Authority bus driver did everything she could to get the taunters to stop.

“The bus driver was amazing,” Gaito said

The following day, the pair returned to Kennywood in the afternoon, using the rain check given by the park. They encountered the same group of hecklers, Gaito said, and were taunted again, although to a lesser extent this time.

Gaito’s daughter and the family friend were frightened, and the whole family has since experienced distress in dealing with the situation, Gaito said. She cried several times during a telephone interview with the Trib.

Neither the park nor the Port Authority have done enough to identify those behind the taunting, she said. One Kennywood official Gaito spoke with was “apologetic” and said it would be dealt with, but it hasn’t been to Gaito’s satisfaction.

“What’s the point of reporting it when nothing is being done?” Gaito said.

She took to social media to air her concerns and spoke to Kennywood officials, but would like the employees involved to be identified and punished, she said.

“They targeted a kid and a woman on a scooter. There was no need for that,” Gaito said.

Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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