A San Diego teenager claims she was kicked out of a math and science camp this summer due to her disability.
Devyn Solo, 13, who was born with cystic fibrosis, was so excited to be selected for an American Association of University Women (AAWU) camp this summer – run by the nationwide women's organization.
Like many young teens, Devyn has high hopes for an extraordinary future, despite the disease that causes breathing and digestive difficulties. The cystic fibrosis forces thick mucus to build up in Devyn’s lungs and pancreas.
But two 20-minute, self-administered treatments daily with a nebulizer and a vibrating vest help Devyn go about her life like any 13-year-old girl.
Still, on her way to that extraordinary future, she ran into an unexpected roadblock.
“She was treated like she had some kind of contagious disease,” Devyn’s mother, Rosalind Solo, said.
AAUW promotes on its website that it has been empowering women and girls since 1881, but Solo and her family said their experience was just the opposite.
Rosalind said her daughter was kicked out of summer camp by co-director Rozanne Child because of Devyn's disability.
As promoted in a video posted on the AAUW website, Tech Trek is a camp for seventh grade girls, meant to encourage and empower them to take on the challenges of a math and science-based course of study.
The weeklong overnight camp took place last June on UC San Diego's campus.
“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor,” Devyn said.
Devyn received a certificate and camp invitation after meeting the requirements, which included a teacher nomination, an AAUW interview and a written essay. In the paper, Devyn wrote about her disability.
“I have cystic fibrosis, and through the scientific advances, they might one day find a cure,” Devyn wrote.
“Incredibly proud; I’m just really proud of her,” Rosalind said.
That is one reason why Devyn was devastated when she said the camp director called after one day to tell her cystic fibrosis is just too complicated for the program, according to Rosalind.
Child has been the camp’s co-director for a number of years. NBC 7 Investigates asked her about the complaint, and over the phone, she said, "AAUW President Alicia Hetman told me to remain quiet during the investigation.”
Alicia Hetman is no longer the California AAUW president, but the incident occurred on her watch. We asked Hetman if camp directors receive any training for working with disabled kids.
“Because [Devyn] has come to you, it has forced me to go to my insurance company and my insurance company has asked me not to answer any questions at this time,” Hetman told NBC 7 Investigates.
Devyn was beaming for the camera in pictures taken that first day of camp. She saw it as an opportunity to test her abilities against girls without her disability, but she never got the chance.
“I don't feel as confident with my cystic fibrosis because she kicked me out. I don't want to tell people anymore,” Devyn said.
The AAUW’s Media Manager Lisa Goodnight gave this statement to NBC 7 Investigates:
"Tech Trek at the University of California, San Diego, is a locally run program of AAUW of California. While we don't know the particulars of this situation at this time, we do know that AAUW of California has a 16-year reputation of providing excellent STEM programming to girls throughout the state.”
Disability Rights California Senior Attorney Ron Elsberry told NBC 7 the group is subject to an anti-discrimination law that requires organizations to make reasonable accommodations for disabled participants.