Connecticut girl banned from school because of Ebola fears

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Marcus Solis reports on the school controversy in Milford, Ct. (WABC)

The father of a Connecticut third-grader has filed a federal lawsuit saying his daughter has been unfairly barred from school amid fears she may have been exposed to the Ebola virus while in Africa.

According to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in New Haven, Ikeoluwa Opayemi and her family visited Nigeria from Oct. 2 through Oct. 13. They say when the girl tried to return to the Meadowside Elementary School in Milford, she was told she had to stay home until Nov. 3 because of a concern she might have been exposed to the virus.

"I think it's pretty outrageous," attorney Gary Phelan said. "I think it's a overreaction to fear."

Phelan is lawyer for the family, who claim there is no reason for Ikeoluwa to be kept at home, since Nigeria has been declared Ebola free since the summer. Also, she did not come in contact with anyone who was sick and is perfectly healthy.

"There is a problem in three out of the 52 countries in Africa," Phelan said. "That doesn't mean that everyone who travels from an entire continent should be quarantined in the United States."

According to the lawsuit, officials issued the ban because of concerns raised by parents and teachers, and the district has sent a tutor to the girl's home for daily instruction. On Wednesday, the superintendent issued a statement firing back at the claim that their handling of the matter was improper, saying, "We deny this allegation. We acted in the best interest of all of our students and staff."

Some parents agree.

"What happens if she does come and something ever did happen?" parent Greta Pelle said. "You can't go back."

"I think it's right for all the children, the teachers and everybody," parent Sandy Campanelli added. "I think it was a good decision. Twenty one days is not a long time."

Others call it an overreaction.

"I have no problem with them being here, and I feel that the young daughter should be in school," parent Dan Wargo said.

"Being careful is good, and thinking about stuff is good," parent Keyvan Behpour added. "But when it gets this ridiculous, I have a real hard time supporting it."

The family didn't travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia, the three nations associated with the current Ebola outbreak. The lawsuit seeks an order allowing the girl to return to school and unspecified monetary damages.
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