14/08/2014 12:49 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Radio Station Sued Over Offensive Image Of Teenager With Down's Syndrome

Radio station sued over offensive mage of Down's syndrome teen

Parents of a teenager with Down's syndrome are suing a media company after it altered an image of their son to make it look like he was holding up an offensive sign.

In the picture, published on a radio website, Adam Holland is seen holding a sign which has been manipulated to read, 'Retarded News'.

The original photo – which showed Adam proudly holding up his work - was taken during an art class at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in Nashville in 2004 when Adam was 17.

Now Adam's mum and dad, Pamela and Bernard Holland, are taking action against Cox Media, which owns radio station WHTP-FM in Tampa, Florida.

The Hollands said that the use of their son's image has caused them 'severe mental anguish and emotional distress with manifestations that impact their daily lives and routines, humiliation, embarrassment, fear, and other non-economic damages and also their economic damages'.

The lawsuit states that the image of Adam was used for commercial use with 'defamatory' descriptions on the station's segment called The Cowhead Show.

Last summer, the group Spread the Word to End the Word, which campaigns to end the use of the word 'retard' to describe people with mental disabilities, contacted the radio station about the photo.

The programme director of the station then wrote an email to the campaign apologising for the use of the photo.

The email said: 'The segment 'Retarded News' is designed to highlight odd stories that are seemingly always in the news. "These stories are NOT about disabled individuals. However, in our investigation, we noted the picture that he was using did denote a person with Down syndrome.

"We have removed that picture from our page and are removing any reference to handicapped or disabled individuals."

Andy McDill, director of communications of Cox Media Group headquartered in Atlanta, told ABC News the company was looking into the matter but could not comment on ongoing litigation.

The lawsuit also names a Flickr user in Minnesota who used the image and changed the picture to say: 'I got a boner.' It also accuses a website called Sign Generator for using the image under the heading 'Retarded Handicap Generator'. In place of Adam's sketch, he is seen holding a sign that read, 'I Love Making Custom Signs'.

Family of Adam Holland, Man With Down Syndrome, Sues Over Photo Meme