Special Olympics coaches are charged with providing a positive environment where children with disabilities are able to gain self-confidence. Unfortunately, for a family in Texas, one coach didn’t live up to that standard.
Austin Mornes walked into his house with a hat that displayed the confederate flag. When the 21-year-old’s mother, Amelia Mornes-Njoka, questioned where he got it, he admitted that it was the volunteer flag football coach gave it to him.
Mornes, who has autism, unaware of the flag’s racist symbolism, expressed interest in the hat, so the coach handed it to him to wear. His mother was outraged.
“Everybody just kind of went into an uproar because he comes in wearing this hat like it’s just a regular hat,” Mornes-Njoka told CBS 11. “You trust these people with your kid who has a disability. As far as I knew, I knew them well enough for my son to be around them without my supervision.”
Mornes has been on the Lewisville School District’s flag football team for eight years. When he asked his coach, who gave him the cap on Nov. 15, what the flag meant he told Mornes it meant “freedom.”
His mother later explained the hate that the Confederate flag signifies to her autistic son. Her shock stemmed from the fact that the three white coaches likely gave it to him as a joke, which was inappropriate due to his lack of understanding of the racial undertones it represented.
The Lewisville Independent School District (LISD) confirmed that the coach was a volunteer and not an employee, and said it was wrong for the coach to give Mornes the hat.
Lewisville ISD says it was wrong for one of its volunteer special olympics coaches to give a confederate flag hat to a black student athlete with autism who was unaware of its racially charged history. The student’s mother is outraged and speaks to CBS 11 News at 6pm pic.twitter.com/mJnMKTJRXy
— J.D. Miles (@jdmiles11) November 20, 2018
They also explained that he had given the hat to Mornes because he asked for it. The coach subsequently reached out to the family, and LISD believes that the issue was resolved.
Lewisville, Texas, has a population of just over 100,000 people of which 68.5 percent are white, 12.2 percent Black, 30.7 percent Latino, and 9 percent Asian. The median household income is $57,549.
Mornes has not returned to the team. It is hard for parents of people with special needs to build trust when it comes to their child’s care. But when it is clear to a parent that a volunteer for Special Olympics is not looking out for their best interest, it may be time to find better role models.