Teacher told to stay away after trip to Africa

AP News
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Posted: Nov 06, 2014 6:05 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Catholic school teacher was told to take a leave of absence for 21 days when she returned from a mission trip to Kenya, even though the country is thousands of miles from the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak.

The school, St. Margaret Mary in Louisville, told religion teacher Susan Sherman to take mandatory leave when she returned Oct. 26 because several parents were worried about the Ebola outbreak, said Sherman's husband, Paul, who had also been to Kenya.

On Thursday, Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz acknowledged that was "not the right judgment."

Kurtz said the parish and the school made the decision "in the midst of an awful lot of confusion at the time."

"And certainly we regret any pain that has been caused to the Sherman family," he said.

Susan Sherman resigned last week.

The school said it in a letter to parents that it apologized to Susan Sherman, but "in light of the poor communication and all that had been transpired, she felt unwelcome and did not see how she could effectively continue as a teacher."

The letter said parents "were Googling and distributing media articles naming Kenya as a high risk country" for Ebola.

They couple spent nine days in Kenya, working with Kenya Relief, an organization that provides health care, food and water and builds churches and distributes Bibles. Susan Sherman has worked as a nurse and Paul Sherman is a retired orthopedic surgeon.

Kenya is on Africa's east coast; the Ebola outbreak has been concentrated in West Africa in countries including Liberia. Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, is about 3,300 miles from Kenya's capital, Nairobi. By comparison, Los Angeles is about 3,100 miles from Atlanta.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that only people at the highest risk — those who've had direct contact with an Ebola patient's body fluids, for example — avoid commercial travel or large public gatherings for 21 days.

Concerns over an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. have prompted some officials to take extra precautions with Americans who have traveled to Africa. Last month, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced tougher protocols than the federal government has imposed. As a result, a nurse who had worked in Sierra Leone who said she did not have symptoms was quarantined in Newark.