Connecticut girl barred from school amid Ebola fears; family sues

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(CNN) — The family of a third-grader in Connecticut has filed a lawsuit against Milford Public Schools, saying their daughter was banned from school for 21 days amid Ebola fears when she returned from a trip to Lagos, Nigeria, for a family wedding.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, alleges that Ikeoluwa Opayemi was not allowed to return to Meadowside Elementary School in Milford “based on fears” of the deadly Ebola outbreak in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Most of the more than 13,700 confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola have been diagnosed in those three countries, according to the World Health Organization. The United Nations’ health authority projected that deaths from the virus have exceeded 5,000.

“I think it’s outrageous how this child was treated,” said Gary Phelan, the attorney for the girl’s family. “At some point, making a medical decision has to be based on medical information, not fear.”

In a statement Wednesday, Milford Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Feser denied that the school’s response was improper.

“In addressing this situation, at all times, my staff and I proceeded in good faith to respond to this public health issue,” the statement said. “We acted in the best interest of all of our students and staff.”

Phelan said the decision to keep Ikeoluwa out of school came after complaints from parents of her classmates.

The girl’s father, Stephen Opayemi, was told by city officials that if he tried to bring his daughter to school, police would remove her, the lawyer said.

Ikeoluwa has not been diagnosed with Ebola and has not exhibited symptoms, the lawsuit said. In addition, the city of Milford refused her father’s offer to have himself and his daughter tested for Ebola.

‘Severe emotional distress’ alleged

On October 20, the World Health Organization declared that Nigeria, which is several hundred miles from the epicenter of the outbreak, had contained Ebola after 19 cases, including seven deaths. The declaration came after 42 days with no new Ebola cases reported.

The WHO credited an aggressive response by Nigeria’s government and effective contact tracing.

The lawsuit said a local health official told Ikeoluwa’s father that the decision to “quarantine” his daughter at home was “due to the rumors, panic and climate at Meadowside Elementary School.”

Ikeoluwa “suffered severe emotional distress” from the decision, the lawsuit claims.

The girl traveled to Nigeria with her father from October 2 to October 13 to participate in a family wedding. When she returned to the United States, school officials ordered that she remain home for 21 days, until November 3, according to the lawsuit.

The suit was filed under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

New York incident

Fears about Ebola affected a group of boys at a school in New York on Friday.

A group of students attacked two of their peers at I.S. 318 in the Bronx while yelling “Ebola” at the brothers, who had recently returned from Senegal, the boys’ father told “CNN Newsroom” on Tuesday.

The New York Department of Education confirms that the incident occurred, saying the boys were pushed and shoved.

Ousmane Drame, the boys’ father, said his sons felt so upset by their experience, they want to go back to Africa.

“They were made fun of by the children (who) started yelling, ‘Ebola. Ebola. Ebola. Africa. Africa,’ ” Drame said his sons told him.

Charles Cooper of the African Advisory Council, a local advocacy group, said that at lunch, one of the boys was jumped by the students who had been calling him “Ebola.” When his older brother intervened, the brother also was assaulted.

Drame said classmates refused to play with his sons in gym.

“We’re done playing with you. You have Ebola,” he said one of the bullies told his sons. “You sit down. … They don’t want to play with them. Nobody is close to them.”

Last week, amid heightened concerns about the spread of the virus, New Jersey and New York started requiring anyone who had contact with Ebola patients in West Africa to be quarantined for 21 days.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said there is little risk of contracting Ebola, outside of close contact with a person who has it and is symptomatic.

5 comments

  • WENDY GAMBLER

    REALLY!!!! THE SCHOOL IS LOOKING OUT FOR OTHER STUDENTS AND YOU WANNA SUE….YOUR PATHETIC…..WOW…..WOW…..WOW….THINK OF ONLY YOURSELF AND NOT OTHER STUDENTS. HOPE THEYLAUGH INYOUR FACE AND THROW OUT YOUR PATHETIC LITTLE “DSCRIMINATION” LAWSUIT….OBVISOUSLY THATS WHAT YOU THINK RIGHT AWAY. DISCRIMINATION…DISCRIMINATION…. SCHOOL IS ONLY TAKING PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES..

    • OneMan'sOpinion

      YOU are an IDIOT. I have never resorted to responding to another commenter with namecalling. It is very fitting here. I’m starting to get a feeling that the Ebola thing is fueled by racism.
      I am a public school employee and have no concerns at this time whatsoever.

    • Charlie McKeon Jr

      Nigeria has not had a case of Ebola for nearly a month and a half. The incubation period is only three weeks. The chances the girl has Ebola are next to nothing. If you are so concerned about the health of students, you should support effective national regulation of the possession, storage, handling, and use of guns. While no student in America has ever died of Ebola, just a week ago two students died from gunshot wounds and two more have gunshot head wounds from another student in the cafeteria of their own school. No one need remind anyone in Connecticut of the response of Congress to twenty little children and six of their teachers lying dead from gunshot wounds in their own school. Congress didn’t do a damn thing. Children everywhere else in the developed world are safe in their schools. Here children die from gunshot wounds in their schools, in their own neighborhoods, even in their own homes. The difference is effective regulation. The rest of the world has it. America doesn’t. Incredibly, in America a gun organization controls public safety.

  • James

    So… When the DB lawyer gets sick what’s he going to do sue the girl… This country is so messed up I think I’ll sue the lawyer for emotional distress this article caused since there would be another idiot to take it….

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