The Baldwin-based practice of Jeanette Breen. The state Department of Health...

The Baldwin-based practice of Jeanette Breen. The state Department of Health said Breen falsified vaccination records for almost 1,500 children statewide, including more than 600 in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa Loarca

Two families of students who were prohibited from attending school due to a lack of valid immunization records have sued the districts, seeking a court order that would compel the schools to allow their children to return to their classrooms.

Both lawsuits were filed Monday and came less than two weeks after the state Health Department told school districts that Jeanette Breen, a Baldwin midwife, falsified vaccination records for almost 1,500 children in the state.

Among the nearly 700 affected students on Long Island were the two daughters of Michael DeVardo, who attended John Street School in the Franklin Square district, and the son of John Giouvalakis in the Cold Spring Harbor district. The fathers sued their children’s respective school district.

DeVardo’s suit also named the state Health Department and Nassau County Health Department as defendants. Both lawsuits called the decision to remove the children arbitrary, capricious and “an abuse of discretion.”

“We did not receive any notice, instead a hand grenade was tossed into our home,” DeVardo wrote in an affidavit dated Monday.

DeVardo stated he works as an FDNY firefighter and his wife is a teacher working for the New York City Department of Education. With no full-time babysitters, the father said the fallout has taken a toll on their employment and the girls’ well-being.

“My children are innocent victims and are begging to go back to school,” DeVardo stated of his daughters, one in first grade and the other in pre-K. 

DeVardo declined to comment through his lawyer Tuesday. His Syosset-based attorney, James G. Mermigis, said in a phone interview that the DeVardos have alternated taking time off work to stay home with their children.

“I think it’s an overreach by the state to remove these kids immediately. It’s unconscionable. These families are victims themselves. … They relied on the advice of this licensed health care professional,” Mermigis said.

Attorney: Other students affected

Mermigis said he has worked with more than a dozen families of barred students, ranging from elementary school children to high school seniors. He said the families need time to seek medical guidance on whether the required shots could create any problem with the immunizations they already have. In some cases, he said, he negotiated extensions for the students.

“These parents thought that they were getting legitimate immunizations,” he said.

State officials said Breen’s fraud began three months after the June 2019 elimination of religious exemptions for required school immunizations, Newsday previously reported. It took place before the COVID-19 pandemic and did not include that vaccine.

Mermigis questioned why the state waited months to notify the districts, who in turn notified the parents, when the state Health Department settled the matter with Breen in November. The state investigated "purported vaccination information" that Breen provided to the state from July 2020 through December 2022, according to the agreement. Breen was fined $300,000 by the state Health Department.

DeVardo’s children were “immediately removed from school” Jan. 17, the same day the district received the state notification, according to the petition.

In Giouvalakis’ case in Cold Spring Harbor, the district informed the parents Jan. 18 and said their son could not come to school beginning Jan. 19.

In some cases, Mermigis said, children were pulled out of their classroom in the middle of the school day and waited at the nurse’s office until their parents picked them up.

“How, all of a sudden, it’s an emergency if it’s been a problem since 2020?” Mermigis said.

Franklin Square schools Superintendent Jared T. Bloom and Cold Spring Harbor schools Superintendent Jill Gierasch had no comment Tuesday. A spokeswoman for the state Health Department said it does not comment on pending litigation. The Nassau County Health Department did not respond to a request for comment.

John Giouvalakis declined to comment Tuesday. His Uniondale-based attorney, Chad LaVeglia, at Yoder LaVeglia LLP, did not respond to a request for comment.

State health laws prohibit a school from permitting a child to attend school for more than 14 days without sufficient evidence that the child has received all age-appropriate, required vaccinations, unless they have a medical exemption. In some cases, that may be extended to up to 30 days.

Health experts have said children who are unvaccinated put other children — as well as adults and babies — at risk.

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