Family: Plano restaurant ousts them over disabled daughter

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by JASON WHITELY / WFAA-TV

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

wfaa.com

Posted on March 30, 2010 at 10:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 31 at 8:13 PM

PLANO — Five-year-old Makenna Johnson is an exuberant little girl with special needs after being born with brain damage.

Her parents said Makenna's world is often accommodating, but recently was humiliating.

"I felt as if my daughter was treated as if she was an animal," said her mother, Marianne Johnson. "She's a five-year-old little girl. She's beautiful."

Two years ago, surgeons removed half of Makenna's brain. She can't walk, talk or communicate.

The Johnsons said they never expected what happened as they lunched earlier this month at The Great Wall Super Buffet in Plano.

"Well, Makenna makes an "uhhh" sound whenever she wants more," explained Matt Johnson, her father. "She hits her chest and she says 'uhhh.' Definitely not any louder than the other kids in the restaurant."

Johnson, a pastor turned policeman, said the restaurant manager marched over, stuffed suckers in her hand, then singled them out.

"He said 'Well, everyone's complaining. You need to go. You need to leave.' I said 'Are you serious?'"

It happened at the restaurant's West Plano Parkway location on March 13.

The manager wouldn't be interviewed on camera, but did show News 8 surveillance video of what happened.

The manager said he never touched Makenna and never asked them to leave; only to be quiet, because, he said, four or five senior citizens eating nearby complained about the noise and eventually got up to move.

Though the surveillance video has no sound on it, the restaurant's manager insists he did nothing wrong.

"This shouldn't happen to anyone," Marianne Johnson said.

The couple said they filed a Title II complaint with the Department of Justice alleging the restaurant discriminated against their daughter and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by asking her to leave.

The restaurants dispute the claim; federal officials will rule on the complaint.

The Johnsons said they don't plan to sue and they don't want money — just an apology.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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