A family from Milford, Connecticut who visited Nigeria for a family wedding earlier this month has filed a federal lawsuit that claims their third-grade daughter was unfairly banned from school amid fears of her Ebola exposure while in Africa.
According to the Associated Press, the family of Ikeoluwa Opayemi attended a wedding in Nigeria from October 2-13. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New Haven and seeking damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act, asserts that Ikeoluwa is suffering discrimination because of a “perceived impairment.”
Upon return from Nigeria, the child attempted to resume school at Meadowside Elementary School but was reportedly told by Dr. Dennis McBride, the school district’s health director, that she would have to remain home until November 3 “due to concern from certain parents and teachers that she could transmit Ebola to other children,” states the lawsuit.
Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D-WFP), said the state’s health commissioner did not issue the decision.
“This was a decision by the town’s public health official,” Doba said. “The state did not play a role in making this determination, and this family is not under any quarantine orders.”
As Breitbart News reported, Malloy had issued an executive order on October 7 to quarantine all travelers from West Africa, even if they were symptom-free of the Ebola virus. Declaring a public health emergency in the state, Malloy, who is hoping to be re-elected next week, gave public health commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen the power, “under conditions prescribed” by her, to order the isolation or quarantine of anyone she reasonably believes to have been exposed to Ebola, infected with it, or at risk of transmitting it.
“Without the declaration, there is no statewide ability to isolate or quarantine – instead, the authority rests with each individual local public health director,” the order states.
As the New York Times reported last week, a spokesman for Malloy said, “The governor has asked the department to act out of an abundance of caution, and that’s exactly what they are doing.”
Nine people who traveled from West Africa to Connecticut have been quarantined under Malloy’s executive order, though one was released on Monday.
The Times, however, reported Tuesday that Malloy, looking to avoid public criticism over his Ebola quarantine policy, has announced a case-by-case approach to quarantines this week, adjusting his previous policy.
Ryan Boyko, a Yale University doctoral student in the School of Public Health, was the focus of concern two weeks ago when, shortly after returning from Liberia, where he worked on a disease-tracking system, he was isolated in his apartment after developing a fever and diarrhea. Though his Ebola tests received negative results, Boyko, 30, remained under a quarantine order, but said he had never been interviewed directly by public health officials prior to the order for his isolation.
As Breitbart News’ Charlie Spiering reported Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) stood by his quarantine decision and criticized the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for its “hyperbolic” response to it. Christie also rebuked Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who referred to the quarantine decisions as “draconian.”
The family of Ikeoluwa Opayemi traveled only to Nigeria where there have been no diagnosed cases of Ebola since August 31, says the lawsuit, according to AP.
“Based on the best available objective and medical evidence,” wrote attorney Gary Phelan in the lawsuit, “Ikeoluwa Opayemi did not have Ebola, had not experienced any symptoms associated with Ebola, and, according to an examination by her pediatrician, her health is fine and there is no reason why she should not be permitted to go to school.”
Banning a child from school is “a blatant violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” which protects not only an individual who has a disability, but also anyone perceived to have one, Phelan added.
Stephen Opayemi, the child’s father, reportedly volunteered to have the family screened for Ebola, or to have the school nurse monitor his daughter’s temperature. He said, however, that school superintendent Elizabeth Feser told him during a meeting that if his daughter tried to go to school on October 20, she would order her removal from the school by the police.
“Dr. McBride stated that although the risk of infection with Ikeoluwa might be minor, the primary reason for his decision that she be quarantined at home for 21 days was due to the rumors, panic and climate at Meadowside Elementary School,” according to the lawsuit.
Opayemi is seeking an order that allows his daughter to return to school and unspecified monetary damages.