by: Katie Kindelan Updated:
The father of a 2-year-old girl with medical issues who was asked to leave a Panera Bread restaurant because the noise of her shoes was bothering a customer says the family was "shocked" by the restaurant's actions.
"The employee and the manager knew what we'd been going through with Emma because she and my wife go there so frequently," Stephen Duke told GoodMorningAmerica.com. "They knew why she had the shoes so that's the thing that shocked us the most."
Two-year-old Emma Duke was at a Panera Bread in Savannah, Ga., with her mom, Catherine Duke, on Jan. 2 when an employee told Duke that she needed to either take off Emma's shoes or leave the restaurant.
Emma suffers from a still-undiagnosed illness that has led to developmental delays, including the inability to walk.
"She just started to try to walk at 23 months, which is very late, so the orthopedist recommended special shoes to her for better ankle support," said Stephen Duke. "The shoes squeak as an incentive when she walks heel to toe, so she'll hear it and know that she's walking properly."
The squeaking noise, according to the Panera employee, bothered a customer, prompting the request that made Catherine leave the restaurant in tears.