Family Claims Ambush by TV and School
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) - A family that had not vaccinated their daughter for whooping cough and other contagious diseases says in court that they were ambushed at home by school officials and a local news station.
The Natomas Unified School District in Sacramento County invited a reporting crew from KXTV to accompany school officials as they tried to administer allegedly truant students with a Tdap vaccination on Sept. 23, 2011, according to the complaint. The booster shot is a vaccination against tetanus, diphtheria and pertusis (whooping cough).
Cayleh Morrison, daughter of Leisa and Andrew Wells, says her name was on the school's list along with more than a dozen of her classmates.
Heyman Matlock, the student services director for the district who is not named as a defendant, allegedly came to Morrison's porch with the school nurse and the camera crew.
"Plaintiff Leisa Wells answered the door and found Mr. Matlock and the nurse on her doorstep, and was shocked to find that she was being filmed head-on by a KXTV television news crew as the crew was standing on her lawn," according to the complaint. "Mr. Matlock stated that he was there with the nurse to adminster a Tdap vaccination to Cayleh Morrison. Shocked at being filmed in this interaction and with the presumptuousness of Mr. Matlock's approach, she told him forcefully to leave, and closed the door."
The reporters allegedly filmed and broadcast images of Matlock's clipboard, which printed the names, addresses, telephone numbers and attendance records of 17 Natomas students, including Morrison.
While canvassing the neighborhood, Matlock "spoke with the reporting crew, explaining that he was administering the vaccination to students who had been truant or otherwise absent from the school without permission," the complaint states. "At the door of the Wells's home (shot in footage which was publically broadcast) and in the interview, he implied that the students were under an obligation to be vaccinated; i.e. that they had no choice in the matter. At no time did Mr. Matlock explain that students, including Cayleh, are not obligated by law to be vaccinated, but may legally opt out of the vaccination. In this way, Mr. Matlock intentionally disseminated negative information impliedly applicable to Cayleh, including the public broadcast of private information about her regarding her health status, her home address, and other personal information." (Parentheses and emphasis in original.)
The unwanted publicity has allegedly led to "unwelcome contacts to the family from numerous places around the country."
Morrison and her parents seek damages for trespass, invasion of privacy, conspiracy, and unlawful dissemination of private information and school and medical records. They are represented in the lawsuit against the school district and KXTV by Steven Kaiser with Kaiser & Chew.