Superior Court of Guam Judge Elyze Iriarte ordered a mother and her daughter to be released from government quarantine after finding the government failed to provide stable internet for online learning.
Iriarte ruled on the case from the bench in early November, but the judge released her written order last week.
Rona Bellis and her daughter had flown back to Guam after staying in the Philippines and having a hard time attending classes online from the country, court documents state.
Bellis’ daughter is a ninth-grader at Harvest Christian Academy and has been learning remotely since spring 2020.
The two traveled to the Philippines in July and attempted to start the school year while distance learning from there, however, there were problems with data and blackouts.
Bellis testified that her daughter’s grades suffered due to the inability to connect with her classes and decided to come back to Guam.
On Oct. 31, the two arrived in Guam and were transported to the Dusit Thani for quarantine, but were not able to connect to the WiFi network.
After Bellis informed the Department of Public Health and Social Services of the issues with the internet, Public Health moved the two to another room.
However, the two weren’t able to connect to the internet consistently, and Bellis’ daughter failed to connect to any of her classes on Nov. 4 and was frozen out of one class on Nov. 5, documents state.
Bellis said education was vital for her daughter’s future and said there were no issues connecting to the internet at their home and requested to be transferred to home quarantine, documents state.
Iriarte wrote that Public Health under local law must provide adequate means of communication with those in quarantine and those outside and connecting to the internet is one way to do so.
For students to learn remotely, a stable internet connection is the only way to attend class and receive an education, the judge wrote.
The judge found that in order to comply with the law Public Health was required to provide consistent internet connection and failed to do so.
The poor internet connection meant the ninth-grader couldn’t receive an education while quarantined, Iriarte wrote.
The judge has told Public Health in previous petitions involving quarantined students that they have a fundamental right to receive an education even when quarantined by the government.
“When DPHSS cannot provide a stable internet connection but insists on keeping students under quarantine with no other point of access to school, it interferes with that right,” Iriarte wrote.
Allowing students to quarantine at home if it can be done safely should be an option if Public Health can’t provide a stable internet connection at its facility, she wrote.
Public Health is urged to conduct home assessments to allow this to happen.
On Nov. 5 Iriarte ordered Public Health to release the mother and daughter to home quarantine for the remainder of their 14-day quarantine.
Iriarte released her decision and order on Dec. 3 to memorialize her ruling from the bench on Nov. 5.
Currently, nearly all incoming travelers to Guam are required to do a 14-day quarantine with the first half at a government of Guam quarantine facility.
Travelers have an option to test out of the government quarantine on the sixth day and receiving a negative COVID-19 test to finish their quarantine at home.
Travelers who have issues with the government quarantine are allowed to petition the court and several have done so over the last several months.
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