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12-Year-Old Kidnap Victim Forced to Sit Out of Therapeutic Volleyball Game Because She Dressed Wrong

Coach and school refuse to bend rules for traumatized youngster.
 
 
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Dezi Hughes after her escape.

 
 
 
 

Twelve-year-old Dezi Hughes, one of two girls kidnapped by a convicted sex offender this year in Dayton, Ohio, was forced to sit out a volleyball game because she didn't dress "school-spirited" enough—a team rule on game day. Hughes and her friend Kathlyn Shepard were kidnapped together, but Hughes managed to escape. Shepard was murdered.

According to her mother, who spoke to WHO-TV, Hughes has been depending on volleyball as a sort of therapeutic exercise in the months since her kidnapping ordeal, both in an effort to rid herself to memories and to simply focus on being a kid again, and it is vital to her recovery. But her coach thought it more important to establish the rule for the team involving game day dress code in an effort to amp up school spirit. On this day, Hughes wore shorts and a long sleeved shirt, and the coach wasn't willing to budge. 

“Every therapist that we have seen so far tells us that she needs an extracurricular activity, " said Jeanette Andrews, Hughes's mother. "Something that does not pertain to what happened. Therapy pertains to what happened. School pertains to what happened. They (had) seen each other every day at school,” she said, referring to Dezi's murdered friend.

Superintendent Launi Dane, however, sides with the coach, stating that while she understands that volleyball is part of Hughes's therapy, "there are certain expectations, there are rules for playing these sports…rules that need to be maintained."

"It’s the one place where she doesn’t have to think about it," said Andrews. "She just has to hit a ball and win for her team. What’s wrong with that? Just let her do it.”

Rod Bastanmehr is a freelance writer in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @rodb.

 
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