A Nigerian father (pictured above) has sued a college in the US, Connecticut elementary school, saying his 7-year-old daughter was discriminated against and banned from school for 21 days predicated on irrational fears of Ebola because she attended a marriage in Nigeria.
Stephen Opayemi filed the lawsuit in federal court in New Haven, Connecticut. He asked a judge to order the schools in Milford, Connecticut, to immediately permit his daughter to go back to her third-grade class. Opayemi’s daughter hasn’t experienced any symptoms connected with Ebola and her health is okay, but parents and teachers were concerned she could transmit Ebola to other children, the lawsuit says.
“We’re hoping this will get her back into school as soon as possible,” the girl’s mother, Ikeolapo Opayemi, said in a quick interview at their home.
Even though the mother declined to talk about information on the lawsuit, citing the advice of the family’s attorney, she said they’d lived in Milford for more than six years. Asked if she was surprised by the college system’s actions, she nodded in agreement.
Nigeria had 20 Ebola cases and eight deaths in year prior to the World Health Organization declared Nation Ebola-free on Oct. 19. The epidemic is centered in three other West African countries, where about 5,000 folks have died: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The Connecticut third-grader, Ikeoluwa Opayemi, traveled to and from Lagos, Nigeria, between Oct. 2 and Oct. 13, in line with the lawsuit. Her father, an indigenous of Nigeria, also went.
Jonathan Berchem, the Milford city attorney, said he hadn’t seen the suit and couldn’t touch upon it. Elizabeth Feser, the college superintendent, didn’t return a phone call requesting comment but said in a contact she hadn’t been served with the suit.
African communities in the United States have reported an increasing level of ostracism since the Ebola epidemic began. At least two speeches by Liberians have now been canceled by U.S. universities, and a college in Texas refused admission to Nigerian students over worries in regards to the virus.
A friend of the Opayemi family, Prashant Batil, said his 6-year-old plays often with Ikeoluwa and he believed the college system was overreacting.
“The parents are extremely responsible people, and if they say she does not have Ebola, I would have no reluctance for my daughter to play with her,” Batil said in an interview.
Opayemi’s suit was filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act. What the law states prohibits discrimination predicated on someone having a real or mental impairment, or on the belief that somebody has this kind of impairment.
Milford officials refused the father’s offer to have both himself and his daughter screened for Ebola, the suit says. In line with the suit, an area health official said in a Oct. 15 meeting that the danger of the girl infecting anyone was minor but that she should be quarantined as a result of rumors, panic and the climate of the school.
City and school officials told Ikeoluwa not to go back to school until Nov. 3, the suit says.
The case is Ikeoluwa Opayemi v. Milford Public Schools and City of Milford, U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, No. 3:14-cv-01597.