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19 January 2016

Massachusetts: Wi-Fi Lawsuit Against Southboro's Fay School Is Headed to Trial

Wi-Fi lawsuit against Southboro's Fay School is headed to trial
by Scott O'Connell, Worcester Telegram & Gazette Staff, 18 January 2016

S0UTHBORO - A lawsuit accusing the Fay School of failing to accommodate a student's alleged Wi-Fi sensitivity is headed to trial in August, according to court documents.

The family of “G,” a 12-year-old who attended the Southboro junior boarding school, says the boy suffers from a condition called Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome, which makes him feel ill when exposed to wireless Internet signals. They argue in their complaint, which they filed in August, that the Fay School ignored their pleas to find accommodations for G, who was experiencing dizziness, headaches and other symptoms in class because of the school’s Wi-Fi.

After a scheduling conference was held Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Worcester, the case is set to go to trial on Aug. 8 before District Judge Timothy S. Hillman, according to court records. The plaintiffs are seeking $250,000.

“They’re looking forward to having their case presented to a judge,” said their lawyer John J.E. Markham II. “They think there’s a way to work out accommodations, and that there’s a lot to be learned about Wi-Fi and its potential dangers.”

G’s lawsuit cites medical experts who attested to the validity of the boy’s electromagnetic hypersensitivity symptoms. But the condition is controversial, and not universally recognized in the medical community.

Rob Crawford, a spokesman for the Fay School, had no comment about the case Friday. In August, the school said in a statement it had tested its radio emissions and the results were well within the Federal Communication Commission’s safe limits.

Shortly after G filed the lawsuit, the sides informed the court they had reached a preliminary agreement in the case. Part of that deal involved allowing G’s family to bring an expert to campus to try to find a solution to the Wi-Fi issues.

“It didn’t work out,” Mr. Markham said. “That’s all I can say. Now we’re back in court.”
According to an amended complaint submitted by G in early December, the school would only allow the family to take measurements of Wi-Fi activity during what they said would be an insufficient hour-and-a-half block in the afternoon. The family also said the school’s eventual solution was to have G connect to the Internet via an Ethernet cable while sitting a few feet away from other students in class, all of whom continued to use the Wi-Fi.

When the boy’s symptoms continued, he brought a dosimeter to measure the classroom’s Wi-Fi emissions. The readings from that device showed G’s condition worsened when the Wi-Fi signals were strongest, and subsided when they weakened, the complaint alleges.

G eventually stopped going to class on Dec. 1, and initially tried to keep up with his studies at home. But his family said the Fay School made that arrangement unworkable, and the boy stopped attending the school altogether in early December.

“I informed the judge that the student has taken a leave of absence, and is studying at another school until this case can be decided,” Mr. Markham said, adding that if the family’s suit is successful or an agreement with the Fay School is reached, “he will go back.”

“They’ve spent a lot of money being at that school,” he said.

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