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Family seeks to join lawsuit against Calvary Church

Calvary is a nondenominational evangelical church on N.C. 51 in south Charlotte. About 850 children attend preschool or day care at its child development center, according to the church’s website.
Calvary is a nondenominational evangelical church on N.C. 51 in south Charlotte. About 850 children attend preschool or day care at its child development center, according to the church’s website. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

A fifth family is asking a judge to let it join a lawsuit against Calvary Church and its child development center.

The lawsuit, originally filed in January by two couples, alleges a pattern of discrimination against preschool-aged children after they developed or were mistakenly perceived to have developed medical conditions. The children were forced to leave the center, the lawsuit contends.

Another 10 families have submitted affidavits saying their children were also discriminated against because of medical conditions, said lawyer Josh Van Kampen, who represents all of the families in the case.

Calvary is a nondenominational evangelical church on N.C. 51 in south Charlotte. About 850 children attend preschool or day care at its child development center, according to the church’s website.

Calvary’s lawyer, Mel Garofalo, has said the claims are without merit.

“My clients strongly disagree with the allegations that have been made against them,” Garofalo said in February. “While I do not think it is appropriate to comment on pending litigation or to try disputes like this in the press, I can state that Calvary and Pat Collins (the center’s director) will vigorously defend themselves against these unfounded allegations through the legal process.”

Calvary has filed a motion to dismiss the case. Oral arguments on the motion are scheduled to be heard by a Mecklenburg County judge May 9. So is the motion to add the fifth family to the lawsuit and affidavits from six more families claiming disability discrimination as far back as 1989, Van Kampen said Wednesday.

Van Kampen said the church’s motion to dismiss the case “would deny the families their day in court. We’re disappointed with the response, but we look forward to arguing why the case should proceed to trial.”

The fifth family seeking to join the lawsuit said they were “harassed by the school” after staff wrongly perceived their 5-year-old daughter to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder during the 2013-’14 school year.

“She has not been diagnosed with ADHD,” the family says in the motion. “She went on summer camp with the YMCA and then to Elizabeth Lane Elementary the following fall, where she was rated a Terrific Kid. Her subsequent schools accepted (her) with open arms and treated her with the respect and compassion she should have received at Calvary.”

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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