Parents upset Special Olympics won’t let them watch children at events

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Some parents of Special Olympics participants are livid that spectators could be banned from future events. Organizers say it’s because of COVID-19.

Channel 2′s Tony Thomas obtained the form Special Olympics parents and competitors have to fill out in regards to COVID-19.

On the second page it says, “I understand no spectators are allowed at any training, competition, or group activity.”

Several parents contacted Thomas wanting to know why they can’t watch their kids while stadiums are packed for other kid events.

”That’s so upsetting,” parent Rachel O’Dell said. “I don’t know if they are thinking that these special needs kids don’t really know or care if their parents are there. But I don’t think they are that dense to think that.”

O’Dell said her son Nehemiah, 6, looks forward to the events and the family support.

Michelle Jackson has two kids in the Special Olympics.

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“I haven’t even told my oldest daughter yet,” Jackson said.

She called the form parents need to sign ridiculous. It includes many pandemic precautions including no spectators at any events, indoor events are cancelled and participants may have to wear masks during competition.

”I just don’t understand how we are allowing neurotypical children to continue to play football and continue to have these other sports going on in school, but we are telling special education students you can have these but you can’t have your parents come and cheer you on,” Jackson said.

Thomas contacted the Georgia Special Olympics CEO, Georgia Milton Sheats.

“It’s a day-by-day thing. Anything we plan, we will have talks with Special Olympics International to make sure we follow their guidelines,” Sheats told Thomas by phone on Tuesday.

Parents like O’Dell and Jackson hope Special Olympics International will change its rules in time.”

Just allow these kids to have their parents or grandparents there in their corner just cheering them on,” Jackson said.

Special Olympics leaders say no events are scheduled so far in the Gwinnett County area. Organizers insist everything is on a day-by-day, case-by-case basis.

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