Durham school ordered to readmit student put on home study because of Ebola concern
Posted November 14, 2014 10:59 a.m. EST
Updated November 14, 2014 12:56 p.m. EST
Durham, N.C. — A private Durham school that prohibited a student from attending classes for 21 days after the teen's father traveled to Nigeria was ordered Friday to readmit the teen immediately.
Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson said officials with Mt. Zion Christian Academy overreacted to concerns about the Ebola virus when they said 16-year-old Samuel Ubezonu, who did not travel abroad, had to have home instruction as a precaution.
The boy’s father, Somto Ubezonu, went to Nigeria in October. The school had planned on letting the boy return Tuesday, when the 21-day period would be over.
The Durham Department of Public Health sent a letter to the school, saying the home study was not necessary and travelers from Nigeria are not considered at risk for the deadly virus.
But in an Oct. 28 letter to the boy’s parents, school Superintendent Donald Q. Fozard Sr. wrote, “We value your family and all of our families and consider it our foremost responsibility to maintain a facility that is both physically and environmentally safe for all.”
School officials did not attend the court hearing Friday.
“The bottom line is, we wish we weren’t here,” Somto Ubenozu's attorney, Dieter Mauch, said in court. “Certainly, everyone has a health concern about infectious diseases, and Ebola in particular, but we can’t just act out of fear.”
Ubezonu said his son hasn’t heard concerns or received negative messages from fellow students. Mauch said in court that the family would be seeking damages against the school.
"It has been terrible, horrifying for myself," said Ubezonu, who is a native of Nigeria. “My son was given unfair treatment from the school, which is highly uncalled for.”