‘She didn’t do anything wrong’ Lawsuit seeks to get quarantined swimmer in Section V finals
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — There is another extraordinary court case involving COVID, the vaccine, and, this time, a 15-year-old swimmer trying to get into the Section V finals Saturday.
News10NBC has reported on unprecedented local lawsuits recently, like families suing to force doctors to give controversial medication to dying COVID patients.
This time it’s a family’s attempt to get a judge to put their child into the swimming finals even though she couldn’t qualify because she’s under quarantine.
The lawyer for the family says this is a real life example of the implications when people make choices about the vaccine.
The sophomore swimmer at Honeoye Falls-Lima is really good with qualifying times every meet this fall, but she’s not vaccinated.
Her school says she had close contact at lunchtime with a COVID-positive student last week and the county health department put her under quarantine.
So she missed the semi-finals Wednesday.
A lawsuit asked Supreme Court Justice John Ark to order that she can swim in the finals Saturday.
"And she’s told that because she sat at a table that another student sat down at and now she can’t swim is devastating," the student’s father Dimitri said.
Matt Lembke is the family’s lawyer.
Brean: "Why do you think this student should be able to compete?"
Matt Lembke, attorney: "Because she’s not infected."
Lembke says the student got two negative tests this week.
Lembke: "But the real-life impact is on a 15-year-old student who has missed one chance, perhaps she’ll have more, maybe she won’t."
Brean: "If she were vaccinated, this wouldn’t be a problem. We wouldn’t be here right now."
In court, the county health department attorney Brian Green said the student "would have been released earlier this week" if she was vaccinated.
The lawyers for county health, the school district and Section V would not talk to me on camera.
In the end, Judge Ark ruled the student can compete in the finals if the HF-L school district says she meets their protocols.
"She’s your student. It’s your call," Judge Ark said. "It’s HF-L’s call."
Brean: "What do you think the school district is going to do?"
Lembke: "I think they’re going to keep her out."
And that’s what happened.
At three o’clock, HF-L released a statement praising the student’s hard work, dedication and appreciating how frustrating this is for her and her family.
But the school district wrote, "The quarantine order remains in place and HF-L has, and will continue to, comply with such quarantine orders as it is obligated to do under the law, consistent with the District’s own COVID-related protocols. As such, the District cannot conclude that [the student] is presently in compliance with the District’s COVID protocols so as to allow her to complete in tomorrow’s sectional competition."
Section V argued against the student swimming saying if the student was allowed to compete it might eliminate a student who already qualified.
"We might be back in court tomorrow for someone else," attorney Maureen Lamb said.
Lamb also said it would set a precedent that if a student didn’t qualify for a competition, they could go to the courts to get in and allowing the student to compete Saturday would "wreak havoc" on the finals’ logistics.
Vaccinated students who have close contact with a positive person are not quarantined.