School board wins legal ruling



The judge ruled the school board did not violate federal law.
& lt;a href=mailto:yovich@vindy.com & gt;By TIM YOVICH & lt;/a & gt;
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
GIRARD -- The board of education has won a legal battle stemming from health issues at Girard Intermediate School.
Judge Peter C. Economus has ruled in U.S. District Court in Youngstown in favor of the board in a lawsuit filed by 191 pupils, parents, teachers, staff members and aides.
The plaintiffs contended they had developed "sick building syndrome" as a result of the alleged refusal by the school administration to acknowledge hasty and negligent construction of the intermediate school building.
As a result, their constitutional rights were violated, the suit said.
The new school opened in the fall for the start of the 2000-01 school year, but was closed May 1, 2001, after parents complained their children were becoming ill.
Work was done to correct suspected problems and the building reopened to start this school year.
A study found mold in the building because of problems with the ventilation system.
In their lawsuit, the parents, teachers and others contended their First Amendment rights also were violated because the school board president didn't allow all of them to speak at a board meeting.
Judge's ruling
Judge Economus ruled that challenging the acts of individual board members is insufficient to establish a liability claim.
The plaintiffs also said they had become disabled under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Judge Economus found that merely having an impairment does not make one disabled. Rather, the plaintiffs needed to show the impairments limited a "major life activity."
The pupils contended that because they had been exposed to mold, they were limited in their ability to learn and to get a public education.
They asserted that as a result of contracting illnesses from "sick building syndrome," they didn't receive an education equal to the education of pupils who didn't become ill.
In dismissing the lawsuit, Judge Economus ruled that "to suggest that preventing the children from returning to a building which the plaintiffs themselves allege was the source of their illnesses was a discriminatory act is simply absurd."
Atty. Bruce A. Zaccagnini of Cleveland, who represented the school board, said only one lawsuit remains in the dispute.
That action was filed in November 2002 in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court by 13 children, 14 parents and four teachers, each seeking at least $25,000 from the district, its former superintendent Anthony D'Ambrosio and five businesses associated with the school's construction.
& lt;a href=mailto:yovich@vindy.com & gt;yovich@vindy.com & lt;/a & gt;

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