Firefighter with Down syndrome says he was bullied by colleagues; at least 1 resigns

Firefighter with Down syndrome says he was bullied by colleagues; at least 1 resigns
Firefighter Jason Eagan, 35, and his family say he suffered harassment over a couple month period from fellow firefighters, who allegedly used a slur and didn't call the man, who has Down syndrome, if there was a fire. (Source: KTVI/Tribune/CNN)

SANDOVAL, IL (KTVI/CNN) - After an Illinois firefighter with Down syndrome quit over alleged bullying, his fellow firefighters apologized, and he returned to the force.

Jason Eagan, 35, is back on the volunteer force at the Sandoval, IL, Fire Protection District. His family says the man, who has Down syndrome, quit his dream job due to harassment that took place over a couple month period.

A slur was allegedly used behind Eagan’s back, and one firefighter made sure the 35-year-old didn’t get a call if there was a fire, according to Mary Kay Eagan-Robbins, Eagan’s aunt.

"I'm not sure if it was the Down syndrome he was bullied about, or it was just he had Down syndrome and was on the receiving end of someone picking on him,” Eagan-Robbins said.

I want to thank everyone for all the support for Jason Eagan. Until we know things are right at the fire department. He will not return there until it is. Sincerely his mom

Posted by Jason Eagan on Saturday, February 9, 2019

Nonetheless, Eagan says the alleged harassment hurt his feelings.

The firefighter’s story spread quickly around the world, with many offering him support. His aunt was able to meet with fire officials, who told her one firefighter resigned and another may do so.

Family members say they will be keeping an eye on the situation moving forward, but most of the firefighters love Eagan, who considers them brothers.

"We just want to move forward. We don't want the bad backlash on the fire department. They've been good to Jason,” Eagan-Robbins said.

Eagan joined the volunteer force in 2016. There was a debate when he first applied, but he passed the physical test and completed all the paperwork, so the department could not refuse him.

Copyright 2019 KTVI, Tribune via CNN. All rights reserved.