In response to a petition from outraged parents, the Disney Channel has pulled an episode of Jessie from their regular programming. The complaints center around an episode that parents feel shows insensitivity toward children with food allergies.
In the offending episode titled “Quitting Cold Koala,” Stuart, a young visiting character who is sensitive to gluten, is portrayed as high-maintenance because of his restricted diet. In this clip, a character throws pancakes at Stuart’s face while everyone — including the audience — laughs along.
When mother Amy Raslevich saw this episode with her kids — both of whom have Celiac Disease in which a lifelong avoidance of gluten is necessary — it was no laughing matter. As she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, her children were both extremely upset, "There were tears in my daughter's eyes, and my son's fist was clenched.”
Finding this unacceptable, Raslevich started a petition on Change.org in an attempt to convince the Disney Channel to pull the episode of the popular show. She wrote that her kids are often ostracized because of their limited diets, and that she felt Disney was being insensitive about the issue.
“(Disney) characters made it okay to characterize a real illness as an annoyance that is justification for the ‘cool kids’ to make fun of the ‘others,’“ Raslevich wrote in her petition. “This isn’t acceptable for anyone. It is the definition of bullying.”
By the time the petition closed, it received over 2,100 signatures. On Friday, the Disney Channel responded with this statement on their official Facebook page:
“To our viewers, we received your feedback about tonight’s “Jessie” episode...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.”