While the fight over masks has dominated headlines, Fairfax County Public Schools faces another potential courtroom battle over its quarantine policy for students exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19.
The parents of two Sunrise Valley Elementary School students have filed a lawsuit against FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand, School Board chair Stella Pekarsky, and Fairfax County Health Department Director Gloria Addo-Ayensu, calling the 10-day quarantine requirement unconstitutional.
Submitted to the U.S. District Court in Alexandria on Dec. 23, the complaint argues that unvaccinated students should have the same exemption from quarantining as their vaccinated peers if they were infected with Covid within the past 90 days.
“This discriminatory treatment of students with natural immunity against COVID-19 is arbitrary and irrational,” the complaint says, urging the court to prevent FCPS from enforcing its policy.
FCPS told FFXnow that it “won’t be commenting on the litigation.”
Represented by the New Civil Liberties Alliance, which describes itself as nonpartisan but has right-wing leanings, parents Eric and Jenny McArthur say their daughter, identified as M.M., was required to quarantine for 10 days starting on Dec. 2 after being identified as a “potential close contact” of a student or staff member who tested positive for Covid.
They argue that she shouldn’t have had to quarantine, because she contracted COVID-19 in late October, isolating at home for two weeks before returning to school in person on Nov. 13.
Since Jan. 10, FCPS has allowed students and staff to avoid quarantining if they are asymptomatic, can wear a face mask, and meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s criteria for an exemption.
The CDC says close contacts of someone with COVID-19 don’t need to quarantine if they’re up to date with vaccinations, including recommended boosters, or they were infected within the last 90 days, as confirmed by a positive viral test record.
In their complaint, the McArthurs say their daughter did not get tested while sick because she had family members who already tested positive for COVID-19 and were displaying symptoms. They also didn’t know it would be necessary to get a quarantine exemption.
“M.M. suffered mental and emotional distress, as well as learning loss, as a result of being excluded from in-person school,” the complaint says.
While a court date in the lawsuit hasn’t been set yet, NCLA filed an emergency motion for a preliminary injunction on Feb. 1, asking the court to require FCPS to let M.M. and her brother return to in-person school after they were required to quarantine again on Jan. 31.
The attorneys say in a brief that neither child has gotten a Covid vaccine “because their parents strongly believe such vaccination is not in their medical best interests.”
In explaining why the McArthurs oppose the vaccine, the complaint primarily cites a joint declaration by scientists who advocated against lockdown restrictions in the initial days of the pandemic. The statement was criticized by many as dangerous and unethical.
According to the CDC, initial studies found “no significant difference” in the overall level of protection provided by a previous infection compared to vaccinations, but data from U.S. hospitals indicated that people hospitalized with COVID-19 were 5.5 times more likely to have been infected before than they were to have been vaccinated.
Photo via Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash
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