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Sororities at George Mason University reject woman with Down syndrome

An Indiana woman with Down syndrome was not accepted to any sororities at George Mason University because of her disability, her sister claimed.

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AnnCatherine Heigl, a sophomore from Zionsville, was the first person from Indiana to be accepted to the university’s LIFE program -- a full-time program for people with intellectual disabilities -- and made the Fairfax, Virginia, school’s cheerleading squad, the Indianapolis Star reported.

Last week Heigl was one of 288 women to go through recruitment to join one of the school’s eight sororities but received no invitations, the newspaper reported. That irked her older sister, Lillie Heigl who wrote a letter to the head of the university's Greek life.

"Accepting a woman with a disability to a chapter isn't an act of charity, it brings diversity and promotes inclusion," Lillie Heigl wrote. "AnnCatherine is an athlete, she is a friend, she works hard in the classroom, she is funny, and she is accomplished."

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Lillie Heigl, a law student at Syracuse University, posted her letter on Twitter and it was retweeted hundreds of times, the Star reported.

The university's Panhellenic Council, the governing body for sororities, issued a statement Wednesday morning, saying it has been working to improve diversity and inclusion, the newspaper reported. However, the statement noted that the council is not able to "dictate our chapters' membership or the process of selecting new members."

"As a council that promotes inclusivity, we recognize that people have been harmed by the decisions of our members," the statement read. "And we are committed to engaging all communities in dialogue on these issues to do better in the future."

"Her heart is broken," AnnCatherine’s mother, Laura Heigl, told the Star. "She is crushed; she is devastated. But AnnCatherine is AnnCatherine. She kind of picks up the pieces and goes on.

"Sometimes we work really hard for something, or we want something, and just because we want it or we work for it doesn't mean we get it." Laura Heigl said. "We have other things waiting for us down the line, and things will work out."

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