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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

School Wrongly Labeled Student Ebola Risk

DURHAM, N.C. (CN) - A private school carried its Ebola-related fears too far when it barred a student from class after learning his father recently visited Nigeria, a lawsuit filed in state superior court claims.

Somto and Ijeoma Ubezonu sued Mount Zion Christian Academy and its founder, Donald Fozard, Sr., on behalf of their son Samuel Ubezonu in Durham County Superior Court.

Samuel, 16, is a student at Mount Zion, a private K-12 day school and boarding school in Durham County.

The Ubezonus claim that when the defendants learned Somto Ubezonu visited Nigeria in October, they immediately sent Samuel Ubezonu home and did not allow him to return to school until the expiration of an incubation period of 21 days.

The family says this was unwarranted because Samuel had not left the country himself, and because Nigeria has not experienced an Ebola outbreak. Even a letter from the county's public health department supporting that claim did not sway Mount Zion and Fozard, the family says.

"When Somto Ubezonu returned to the United States, he, like other passengers on his plane, were briefly screened, but since Nigeria is not a country that currently has any cases of Ebola, he has not been placed on any restrictions and is able to travel anywhere without concern with the exception of a request set forth in the October 28 letter from defendant Fozard that he refrain from visiting Mount Zion for a designated 21-day incubation period," the complaint states.

The Ubezonus contend the school breached a contract by not allowing Samuel to attend Mount Zion even though his parents pay tuition, and that it also defamed the minor by implying he harbors a risk for disease.

"There is a stigma attached to a child being prevented from attending school for the reason that he may be inflicted with a loathsome and deeply feared disease," the complaint states. "For defendants to insinuate that Samuel Ubezonu is a health risk due to his family's connection to Nigeria creates a cloud of fear or mistrust around the child and constitutes ongoing damage to the child."

The Ubezonus seek an order directing that Samuel be allowed to return to school, and that the school advise anyone who asks that he poses no health risk and that it incorrectly identified Nigeria as a country that might have active Ebola cases.

They are represented by Dieter Mauch of Hedrick, Murray, Bryson, Kennett & Mauch in Durham.

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