Manatee theater apologizes for taking supplies from diabetic teen

By Josh Rojas, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 8:01 AM EDT

The executive who runs the Lakewood Ranch Cinemas sent an email apologizing to a Manatee County family for taking diabetic supplies from their 16-year-old son over the weekend.

"There is no excuse for the insensitivity shown to your son by our staff," Barbara Caras, executive director of the Sarasota Film Society, wrote in the email. "I accept full responsibility for their actions and offer my sincere apologies on their behalf."

The teen, Ryan Symens, said he was recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and carries a leather backpack with him wherever he goes that contains his medical supplies. Symens said those supplies include a testing kit, needles, insulin an emergency injection called Glucagon, juice boxes and protein bars. The teen said a Lakewood Ranch Cinemas manager had a problem with the juice boxes and protein bars.

"He said that was not going to be acceptable and that I would not be allowed to bring the bag in with me," Symens said. "I continued to explain to him ... I'm diabetic and that this is extremely important for me being here and he just didn't really care."

Symens said the manager also pointed to a sign that states all food had to be purchased at the concession stand. The teen said the concession stand did not sell protein bars and the juice box was the wrong size, but he purchased one anyway.

"They did have juice boxes, but my juice boxes are a specific size because it has a total carb count in it," he said.

The teen's dad, Chad Symens, sent an email to Barbara Caras on Saturday complaining of the treatment his son received at the theater. On Monday, Caras responded to that complaint and wrote that "to say they (employees) were following instructions regarding our policy on food and beverage, although true, would not fit this particular criteria."

Caras also stated, "to prevent this from occurring again, the individuals have been spoken to and made aware of their mishandling of a very delicate situation.... As I have stated no malice was intended, however poor judgment was certainly used."

The teen's dad said he's not happy with that apology.

"So what we're looking for is for them to make a public apology to Ryan," Chad Symens said. "We're looking for them to change their policy that's written in their lobby so that it addresses the fact that medical supplies are necessary for diabetics. So they can stop discriminating against them."

The Sarasota Film Society forwarded that apology email to Bay News 9, but declined a request for an interview.

"Those are just words between a manager and her staff," Chad Symens said. "To make it clear for everybody who walks into that theater, I think it should be changed in writing because they referred specifically to the policy in writing when they were dealing with Ryan. So, if it's in writing there's no miscommunication."

"I was glad that they acknowledged the issue," Ryan said. "But I'm still not happy from the point that they told me their policy is not going to change."

Caras also wrote in the email that for two years the Sarasota Film Society has donated partial proceeds from a game room to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.