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A father has settled a lawsuit with his daughter's Connecticut school district after she was barred from attending class over fears she may have contracted Ebola.
Stephen Opayemi and his 7-year-old daughter had attended a wedding in Nigeria and returned to find that her school, Meadowside Elementary in MIlford, wouldn't let her rejoin her class for another 21 days. Opayemi filed suit in federal court in Connecticut, hoping a judge would order the school to let his daughter return. On Thursday, the parties settled, allowing the young girl to return to school on Friday, reports the Connecticut Post.
What was the legal thrust of Opayemi's suit over this school Ebola policy, and what happens now that he's settled?
ADA Violation Alleged
In his lawsuit filed less than a week ago, Opayemi argued that Milford Public Schools had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by denying his daughter access to her education based on a perceived disability. Generally, schools and other places of public accommodation may not discriminate based on an actual or perceived disability without violating Title II of the ADA.
In this case, the perceived "disability" the third-grade girl was perceived as suffering from was Ebola, as inferred from her time in Nigeria. Despite showing no symptoms of the deadly disease, the school prevented her from returning to classes for 21 days. According to Reuters, the suit alleges that parents and teachers were concerned that the 7-year-old "could transmit Ebola to other children."
In cases where a disability might provide a "direct threat" to safety, the ADA may allow the government or a private employer to discriminate against a person with a perceived disability. But in this case, Opayemi's suit argues that his daughter was no such threat.
According to The Middletown Press, in addition to returning the third-grader to school, Opayemi requested $250,000 in emotional damages and attorney's fees.
Luckily for the young girl, her father and the school district settled the lawsuit, allowing her to return to school on Friday. It's unclear if the $250,000 Opayemi demanded was part of Thursday's settlement, as the Post reports neither party will comment further, pursuant to the terms of the settlement.
News reports do not indicate whether this gag order also applies to Opayemi's third-grade daughter, who may have some difficulty keeping satisfying her classmates with silence.