Disney removes episode of 'Jessie' after celiac complaints

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In response to a local mother's petition, Disney Channel has pulled an episode of the show "Jessie" due to its depiction of celiac disease.

Amy Raslevich's two children, Laura, 11, and Sam, 8, were diagnosed with the autoimmune disease about 18 months ago. Ms. Raslevich of Ohio Township was upset after seeing her children's emotional reactions to an episode in which a character states that he requires a gluten-free diet. Other characters laughed and threw pancakes -- which contain gluten -- at him.

After an article about Ms. Raslevich's petition appeared Monday in the Post-Gazette, Patti McTeague, Disney Channel's senior vice president of communications, emailed to say that Disney had removed the episode from its programming schedule. Although some viewers, including Ms. Raslevich, accessed the episode last week on Video on Demand, the episode did not air on Disney Channel's linear TV schedule and it is now being re-evaluated, Ms. McTeague wrote.

"We also asked viewers to please accept our apologies for the upset this episode caused them," she wrote.

Ms. Raslevich removed the petition from www.change.org after seeing Disney's response.

"It's been incredible that they removed the episode that quickly," she said Monday. "My kids were just so excited. It was nice to see the look in their eyes. ... They realized that they can effect change and that people are willing to listen and understand. They can actually take the opportunity to help educate others."

She added: "What was a little less encouraging was that one of the stars of the show tweeted that it wasn't bullying."

Actress Skai Jackson, who plays Zuri Ross, tweeted: "Sorry that the new #Jessie episode didn't air. I just want to say there was no bullying in the episode. Disney channel is against bullying."

"I think the big lesson for [the kids] is that they are not alone," Ms. Raslevich said. "There were positive comments from people all around the world that got involved."

She said she hoped the issue would encourage people to get tested. "[Celiac disease] can be managed, but you have to identify it first."

region - tvradio

Katie Foglia: kfoglia@post-gazette.com or 412-263-4903.


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