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Chicago-area parent sues school district after children told to quarantine
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Chicago-area parent sues school district after children told to quarantine

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A Park Ridge parent and one-time candidate for mayor has filed a lawsuit against a local school district after he said the district required his children to quarantine at home following a family trip overseas.

Lucas Fuksa, an attorney, and his wife, Daniela, are suing Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 and Superintendent Eric Olson, alleging that the district does not have the legal authority to require students to quarantine as part of its response plan to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lawsuit was filed within hours of the children's attempt to return to school on Sept. 20 following a trip to Italy. It also accuses Olson of telling the Fuksas that police would be called to take their three children home if they did not pick them up from school.

District 64 Spokesman Nick Shepkowski said the district cannot publicly comment on the lawsuit due to the pending litigation.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction prohibiting District 64 from forcing students to quarantine without a judge's order.

According to the suit, it is the Cook County Department of Public Health that must obtain a court order to require a person to quarantine. The lawsuit cites a section of the Illinois Department of Public Health Act, which states that "no person or a group of persons may be ordered to be quarantined" except with the consent of that person or group or court order, unless the local health department believes immediate action is required to protect the public.

"Any order of quarantine, absent consent of the parents, would only be lawful by proving to this court by clear and convincing evidence that the children have been exposed or may have been exposed to a contagious disease," the lawsuit argues.

Fuksa addressed the school board on Sept. 23, accusing District 64 of violating state statute and its own COVID-19 guidelines by requiring his children to quarantine for seven days, even with negative COVID-19 tests.

The lawsuit alleges that the Fuksas, prior to returning to the United States, were told by a school district nurse that quarantine is recommended by District 64, but "not mandatory."

"I think you guys are doing a very terrible job as a school board to not distinguish what is right or wrong and what procedures to follow," Fuksa said.

According to the district's COVID-19 guidance on international travel, which follows guidelines from the Cook County Department of Public Health, "all unvaccinated travelers must quarantine for seven days after the date of return, even if tests are negative."

Both Lucas and Daniela Fuksa told the school board their children have tested negative for COVID-19 upon their return.

Olson, during the Sept. 23 school board meeting, called quarantine "mandatory" when students travel internationally. For domestic travel to other states, quarantine is only recommended, he said.

"We have made sure this was very clear with parents over and over again," Olson told the board.

Some board members suggested the district was not clear enough on its rules for students.

"There's a lack of clarity in our documents on our website," said member Gareth Kennedy.

Daniela Fuksa also told the board that an email she received from a district nurse said it was not mandatory for her children to quarantine upon their return. Due to that quarantine, her children were required to attend classes remotely, she said.

"The three days that we've been home doing remote learning has been awful," she told the school board. "I would love for you guys to witness how it is ... The change in their mental state is terrible."

The Fuksas' lawsuit cites other, similar lawsuits challenging school-established COVID-19 policies that were filed against Illinois school districts in recent weeks. These include lawsuits against Carlyle School District 1 in Clinton County; North Mac School District in Macoupin County; School District 172 in Adams County; and Hillsboro Community School District 3 in Montgomery County.

"I'm not going to let this fight go because everyone needs to know what their rights are," Lucas Fuksa told the school board. "People are absolutely out of their minds with what is required and what is not required."

Daniela Fuksa was one of several parents who addressed the District 64 School Board on July 15 to demand that face masks be optional for unvaccinated students when school resumed in August.

Shortly after, on Aug. 4, Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order requiring masks be worn indoors, including in schools, regardless of vaccination status.

Lucas Fuksa ran for mayor of Park Ridge in 2017. He was defeated by incumbent Marty Maloney, who was elected to another four-year term in April 2021 after running unopposed.

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