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Arts and Entertainment

Disney Apologizes For Gluten-Intolerant Mocking On 'Jessie'

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Disney is apologizing after fans were outraged by an episode of Jessie that featured a child on a gluten-free diet being the butt of jokes.

Parents of children who suffer from celiac disease loudly voiced their complaints about the episode, blogger Perez Hilton reports. In the episode, which first debuted on Video On Demand, a dorky 9-year-old character is being babysat by the main character, Jessie (Debby Ryan). After he gives a gift basket to a girl he likes, she threatens him with "some gluten-free knuckles" and then throws a pancake at him, which is played for laughs as he yells, "Gluten!" and then desperately wipes his face.

A petition called "Disney, Stop Bullying Gluten-Intolerant Characters" collected over 2,000 signatures before it was closed.

The petition starter by Amy Raslevich of Pennsylvania included this plea for her own children, who she says were diagnosed with celiac disease 18 months ago.

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"May is National Celiac Awareness Month, so watching an episode of the Disney Channel show ‘Jessie’ titled ‘Quitting Cold Koala’ in which a boy who must avoid gluten was made fun of, humiliated and isolated was extremely upsetting to my children. In the 'Jessie' episode, a young boy was said to require a gluten-free diet. The other characters snickered at this requirement, and in fact threw a pancake at the child, which could have actually triggered a severe skin rash known as dermatitis herpetiformis. The boy was made to be annoying, sniveling, and demanding, repeatedly teased and excluded by the other children.

For my kids, this is real. They have had friends make fun of their food, been disinvited to parties because of their diet. They have been made to sit alone, have had waitstaff roll their eyes and snidely comment about their requests to make their food safe for them to eat. They have watched others, sometimes strangers and sometimes not, act as if their requests are somehow just a trend, just a request of an overanxious parent or a spoiled and coddled child."

The Disney Channel released a statement on its Facebook page, saying they had pulled the episode:

"To our viewers, we received your feedback about tonight’s Jessie episode which some of you accessed early on Video-on-Demand. We are removing this particular episode from our regular programming schedule and will re-evaluate its references to gluten restrictions in the character’s diet. Please accept our apologies for the upset this episode caused you and your family. We value your feedback and thank you for watching Disney Channel."

Of course, since it's the internet, the episode has resurfaced on YouTube, at least for now.

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