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Firefighter who was bullied for having down syndrome rejoins department

Firefighter with Down syndrome

Jason Eagan is a firefighter in Sandoval, Illinois, and has Down syndrome. Lt. Matt Horn says Jason is a valued member of the volunteer department.
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Jason Eagan is a firefighter in Sandoval, Illinois, and has Down syndrome. Lt. Matt Horn says Jason is a valued member of the volunteer department.

A Sandoval fire firefighter with Down syndrome, who quit after colleagues allegedly bullied him, has rejoined the department.

Last week Jason Eagan’s family said he left the volunteer department months ago. Last Thursday, his family took to Facebook and Eagan’s story quickly went viral.

Eagan’s aunt, Mary Kay Eagan-Robbins, returned to Facebook Saturday saying she and Eagan met with several members of the department and a Sandoval trustee, apologies were made, and his job was offered back, which he accepted.

Eagan’s sister Kristine Sian, however, said Eagan won’t report back to the department until the the family is satisfied that the bullying is overwith for good. She said Monday that one of the four firefighters involved had officially resigned while another expected to in the coming days.

The Sandoval Fire Department is set to have a meeting about the situation this week. In the meantime, attempts to contact a representative at the fire department have not been returned. The department also deleted its Facebook page over the weekend.

“He is excited to return,” Sian said Monday. “We just have to make sure this will not happen again.”

firefighter
Firefighter Jason Eagan rides in a Sandoval fire truck. Provided

Eagan became a volunteer firefighter with the department in 2016 after years of trying. The 33-year-old said becoming a firefighter meant the world to him.

There was disagreement when Eagan first showed up at the fire department over whether he could be a firefighter, but he passed the physical and completed the necessary paperwork. The department couldn’t refuse him.

Eagan-Robbins, said the harassment started last year when other firefighters started taunting him and calling him a “retard.” She said someone deleted Eagan from the paging system that alerts firefighters to emergency calls.

Eagan-Robbins said she only found out about the problem when she saw Eagan heading out of the house to turn in his gear.

“He always put that fire department over even family,” Eagan-Robbins said. “That what was always so important to him.”

She said when Eagan quit, several of the firefighters reached out to the family to make sure he was OK.

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Sandoval firefighter Jason Eagan, left, and Lt. Matt Horn. Brian Brueggemann

Eagan participates in regular training with the other firefighters and helps with chores at the station in addition to taking part in fundraisers and with charity events and helps with fire-safety presentations to school children.

The hashtags #JusticeforJason and #myfavoritefirefighter have been created by many members of the Sandoval area and friends and family of Eagan.

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Kavahn Mansouri covers government accountability for the Belleville News-Democrat, holding officials and institutions accountable and tracking how taxpayer money is spent.
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