Judge rules in favor of Southboro school in WiFi sickness case
by Scott O’Connell, Telegram & Gazette Staff, 11 June 2018
WORCESTER – A federal judge has issued a final decision in the case of a family who claim their son was sickened by the WiFi signal in his classroom, ruling on the side of the Southboro boarding school that was targeted in their lawsuit.
In a previous ruling nearly a year ago, District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman rejected the majority of the family’s case alleging that the Fay School was culpable for not doing enough to accommodate the student, who they said suffers from a controversial condition known as Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome. In his latest order, issued Friday, Judge Hillman dismissed the last remaining count, which alleged the school had retaliated against the family, according to court records.
Key to his decision was the fact the family, known only as “Mother,” “Father” and “G” in the suit, were seeking injunctive relief on that claim, with the hope that the boy, who left the Fay School a year ago, could return there next year to retake the ninth grade. Judge Hillman said such a scenario would be unlikely, given the student is already enrolled in the ninth grade at St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury this year, and that Fay School’s lawyers said there is no precedent for re-enrolling a high school student to complete what is supposed to be a ninth grade cap year at the middle school.
“I find that there is no reasonable anticipation that G will again be a student at the Fay School and the retaliation claim seeking injunctive relief is moot,” he wrote in the order.
That decision, along with Judge Hillman’s accompanying decision to reject the family’s motion for reconsideration of his previous ruling, effectively ends the family’s lawsuit, barring an appeal. The complaint was first filed in U.S. District Court in Worcester in August 2015, when G was 12 years old.
The case initially drew national interest due to the unusual nature of the plaintiff’s claims. They said G, an otherwise healthy boy, became physically ill whenever he was in the school’s WiFi-equipped classrooms – a reaction that a subsequent professional diagnosis obtained by the family determined was due to the student’s electromagnetic hypersensitivity.
While there is a vocal community advocating on behalf of sufferers of the condition, which supposedly causes headaches, nausea and other symptoms when the person is exposed to a certain level of WiFi radiation, it is not considered a legitimate diagnosis by leading medical authorities.
In the Fay School case, Judge Hillman has not dismissed the possibility G was suffering from some sort of condition that might have been affected by the school’s WiFi. But he also determined in his initial ruling last September that the school had fulfilled its legal obligations as far as providing any accommodations to the student, despite the family’s claim the school did not make any meaningful attempts to help them.
The Fay School on Monday said though a representative it had no comment on the judge’s latest decision in the case.
The family’s attorney, John Markham, could not be reached for comment.