Mark Eschoe is a man who takes pride in taking care of his three children’s needs, no matter what they may be.
One of those children is his daughter, Marley (pictured), who suffers from Lupus. In the first six months of this year, she suffered two strokes caused by brain aneurisms that left her wheelchair-bound. During her last stay at an Atlanta hospital, he sat by his daughter’s bed and watched her breath through tubes that kept her alive.
It was a rare period of time when he felt his fatherly love could do nothing to help his ill daughter feel better.
But not long after she left the hospital, Marley was invited to attend a Chuck E. Cheese party where mostly children with special needs would be present. She was excited about the chance to play with other children after spending months holed up in a hospital, but her father was concerned about taking her in to such a busy environment so quickly. But he wanted to make his daughter happy, so he agreed to take her. In fact, he made sure to call in advance to notify management that his daughter is wheelchair bound.
The first twenty minutes went by fine before Marley told her father that she needed to use the restroom. She needed assistance because of the wheelchair. The men’s bathroom was busy, but a woman who had just left the ladies’ room said no one was inside.
Mark asked the hostess if he could enter the ladies’ room with his daughter so she could help her use the restroom. He says the hostess seemed to understand his needs, but said she had to get permission from her supervisor. When the supervisor came, however, Mark says she was very rude and had an attitude.
“She looked at my feet, came up and where eyes met (mine), looked at me and said, “No.” Despite explaining his daughter’s situation, he says the supervisor didn’t budge. “No man can ever enter the women’s bathroom at a Chuck E. Cheese,” Mark recalls the supervisor saying.
Making sure he heard her correctly, Mark asked, “Ever?” She confirmed, saying, “That’s right. Ever.”
Again, Mark says he tried to explain that his daughter has special needs, but the manager cut him off before he could make his point. “I don’t care if she’s special needs,” he recalled her saying. “I’m not going to treat her any differently than I do my other patrons.
At some point, Mark says the supervisor threatened to call the cops at which point Marley nudged her father said, “That’s OK. I don’t have to use the bathroom anymore.” A family friend eventually took his daughter to the restroom.
Mark said it took every once of strength to maintain his cool during a situation in which he felt personally disrespected by the manager and upset that the she did not help accommodate his daughter’s special needs. But personally, Mark says he felt like he was stripped of his ability to be a father to his child.
“I take care of mine,” he said. “I take care of all three of mine. Daddy is here. Now I am in a situation where I have a special needs child but can’t help her. Our family dynamics is what it is. My wife doesn’t have to be there. I got it.”
When he told his wife about what happened, she reached out to the corporate office, but said it took a week for them to respond. And that was only after she published a Facebook page asking people to petition the establishment. She said an official told them they would conduct an internal investigation, but did not hear back from them until June.
“They said that they had completed their internal investigation and they are going to handle that employee and that we did not select the alternative that was provided,” Kiyomi Rollins told NewsOne in an interview.
Below is a full statement Chuck E Cheese released on the issue:
“We are aware of a recent situation involving a disabled patron in our 2990 Cumberland Blvd. SE Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant which caused concern for an Atlanta, Ga., family, and we are not taking this very sensitive allegation lightly. We have made several attempts to reach out to the family, but unfortunately we have not received a response to our communications.
Based on our investigation, and the information available to us at this time, the father’s request to accompany his daughter into the women’s restroom came while female patrons were already using the restroom. However, our employees still attempted to provide alternative accommodations for the child’s restroom needs. While these accommodation options were being offered to the child’s father, a female member of the family’s party took the child into the women’s restroom before a resolution could be reached with the child’s father.
We are happy to discuss this allegation further with the family should they choose to respond to our request.
At Chuck E. Cheese’s, providing wholesome entertainment to families with young children and maintaining a safe experience for our guests and staff is a primary concern for us just as it is top-of-mind for the families and parents who visit us. We appreciate and welcome dialogue with our guests who help us maintain these values.”
Mark said no alternative was provided and that the company has not reached out to them as they said they have.
But Marley’s parents are not giving up their fight to force Chuck E. Cheese apologize for what they feel was insensitive and illegal treatment of their daughter. Kiyomi has sent up a change.org petition that says Chuck E. Cheese should comply with the American Disabilities Act. So far, more than 64,000 people have signed it. The parents also launched a website, “Marley Matters,” that outlines their efforts to get Chuck E. Cheese to address its policies pertaining to the ADA.
While Kiyomi and Mark have received an outpouring of support from thousands of people online, they have also been the target of ridicule.
In a post over at Sandra Rose , a writer argued in favor of Chuck E. Cheese:
“Once again entitlement rears it’s ugly head in a situation that could have been easily resolved by using common sense.
No woman wants to encounter a grown man in a public restroom. Furthermore, a man entering a ladies room with a 9-year-old girl is simply inappropriate.
Mr. Eschoe could have simply asked one of the females in his party to escort the child into the restroom.
Instead of the media blaming the entitled parent for overreacting, the blame is placed on the establishment for trying to protect their female patrons.
This is what happens when the media promotes entitlement as the norm instead of promoting common sense and common courtesy.
In comments sections on various websites that covered that story, many readers actually share the position of the Sandra Rose post.
That many of these commenters were Black perturbs Kiyomi and she says it reflects on how badly Black men are treated when they are intimately involved in the lives of their children.
“I don’t know where we’ve gotten away with attacking Black fatherhood or just fatherhood in general,” she said. “Her father was there. That’s her father’s role and responsibility, so I’m sorry for other people whose fathers are not there and not doing what they’re suppose to do. That’s what that Black man was suppose to do and that’s what father’s do. It’s not for a father who has a child to have others to do anything for his child… it was nobody’s responsibility to take our child who was in a wheelchair to the restroom.”
Chuck E. Cheese offered the family free passes and tokens but that is not what they want. Kiyomi wants an apology. And she also wants people to know how the supervisor’s actions emotionally affected her daughter.
(For girls), daddys have the ultimate “S” on their cape,” she said. “I’m sorry if other people don’t have that because in my household that’s what that Black man h
as in my family. But in that one second, that “S” was just wiped completely off his cape.”