First thing this morning I received a call from Heather at Walt Disney World. In addition to being a WDW cast member (how the park refers to all employees), she is also a mother. She immediately apologized and said that the New Year's Eve bullying episode in the Commissary was not handled appropriately by the manager. "What should have happened," she told me, "is the bullies should have been asked to stop. If they didn't, she would then call Disney Security and they would be removed from the park." Because not only should bullies not have been tolerated within the restaurant, she assured me, but they shouldn't have been allowed to stay inside the park where any child should always feel safe, whether they have a special need or not.
The "safe havens," she explained, are provided in case a guest finds an experience like the parade too overwhelming, and he or she needs a quiet place to escape the noise for a little while. Clearly, they can't stop the parade, but they want there to be a noise-free environment where a guest can get away from it.
She also said that part of her team's job is to report back on our experiences, and let everyone know when there is a failure of communication. It appears that this restaurant manager failed to get the message about what her duties and responsibilities are in the face of bullies, but I've been assured that policy is going to be reiterated to all Disney cast members.
Then she said, "It sounds like your family didn't have a very relaxing experience here, and I'd like to invite you back to make that right." I assured her that wasn't necessary, that a simple understanding of Disney's bullying policy was all we ever needed. However, she insisted on sending tickets for our entire group -- 10 adults and 4 kids -- to come back to Walt Disney World and feel completely safe.
After thanking her for this response, I assured Heather that I would let all of you know that you can feel safe taking your kids to Walt Disney World as well. If your child -- whether they have a special need or not -- is the target of a bully, you can expect a cast member to intervene and ask them to stop. And if they do not comply, that manager should call Disney Security.
I'm not sure when we'll be heading back to the "happiest place on Earth," but I'll feel much more comfortable returning to WDW with my autistic child because Disney has a strong policy against bullying.
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