Diabetic teen says movie theater disciminated against him

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LAKEWOOD RANCH-- A diabetic teenager from Manatee County says he was discriminated against at a movie theater in Lakewood Ranch. The incident happened just hours after 16-year-old Ryan Symens participated in a juvenile diabetes walk near the Lakewood Ranch Cinemas. 

Symens was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just last month. He always carries around a bag that contains insulin, a blood glucose reader, and small boxes of apple juice and protein bars. According to Symens, an employee at the theater took exception to him having outside food and drink.

"He asked if I had food, and I told him he would find food, but a 4oz Juicy Juice and protein bars."

Symens says the snacks and drinks are imperative to keeping him healthy.

"I know with the carbs in the 4oz juice box and the protein and carbs in the Oh Yea bar, it will raise me up to where I need to be and at the correct level," Ryan said.

The theater employee told Ryan that the juice and protein bars would not be permitted because of the theater's policy on outside food and drink.

"He said it was a personal problem and if I wasn't going to be willing to follow the policy, then I could leave and go to a different theater," Ryan said.

Ryan decided to give up his food and stay. His father later learned of what happened.

"When you take a 16-year-old out of line with half a dozen other teens who also have bags and insist to look through his bag and deny him access because he has 4oz of juice and a protein bar, that's discrimination," said Chad Symens, Ryan's father.

Demanding an apology, Ryan and Chad received an email from theater representative, Barbara Caras, who did say, there is no excuse for the insensitivity shown by her staff. Chad says that's not enough.

"I felt it was a little insincere," said Chad.

Ryan wants reform to the food and drink policy so no one has to go through the same sort of ordeal.

"I feel bad for anyone with a disability or disease, no matter how old or young, that wants to see a movie, but is turned away," said Ryan.

Our numerous calls to theater employees were not returned. Ryan says he will not return to the theater until the policy is changed.

E-Mail from theater to Ryan and his family:

Dear Chad,

Forgive me for not responding sooner to your e-mail on April 12th regarding the incident involving your son at our theater. Before responding, I needed some clarification on exactly what transpired, since there are conflicting stories. However, in any case there is no excuse for the insensitivity shown to your son by our staff. To say they were following instructions regarding our policy on food and beverage, although true, would not fit this particular criteria. The individuals meant no malice toward your son, but obviously had no idea of the severity of his medical condition and his specific needs. Further, to prevent this from occurring again, the individuals have been spoken to and made aware of their mishandling of a very delicate situation.

Not that it is of any consolation, but Sarasota Film Society, of which Lakewood Ranch Cinema is part of, has donated partial proceeds from our game room for the first two years to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. We have also received personal recognition from the foundation for other efforts as well.

Therefore, I accept full responsibility for their actions and offer my sincere apologies on their behalf. As I have stated no malice was intended, however poor judgment was certainly used.

Best Regards,

Barbara Caras
Sarasota Film Society, Inc.