Judge Hears Arguments in New York AIDS Case
A New York City judge continued to hear testimony last week in a case brought three weeks ago by school officials seeking to bar from classes a 2nd grader with acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
Officials of District 27 in Queens filed suit after a joint panel of the city's school board and health department ruled that the child should be permitted to attend classes. (See Education Week, Sept. 18, 1985.)
The case's "central issue," according to Richard Riley, a spokesman for the city board of education, has been "the transmissability of aids." But other issues have also been addressed, he said, among them the danger classroom settings pose to aids-afflicted children themselves, because of increased exposure to viruses and childhood illnesses.
But the trial, being heard before New York Supreme Court Justice Harold Hyman, also has raised questions about whether or not the 2nd grader in question actually has aids. Both the child's lawyer and the city's lawyer, Mr. Riley said, have indicated that the student may not be suffering from the disease.
But, he added, "whether or not the child has aids is not immediately germane to the educational issue."
The city health department is standing by an earlier diagnosis that the child does have the disease.
Also last week, Mayor Edward I. Koch made public the names of sev-en physicians who will serve on a second panel to screen city children who have aids to determine whether they should be permitted to attend school. School officials had previously named a four-member panel for the same purpose. Both panels are to work on a case-by-case basis.
Meanwhile, as the debate over how aids-afflicted children should be schooled intensified last week, two more states and the District of Columbia joined the list of states and localities considering the adoption of formal guidelines to deal with the problem. To date, seven states have adopted such guidelines.
In Maryland, a task force formulating guidelines recommended in a preliminary report that students and teachers with aids not be barred from classes.
Minnesota officials, who have adopted guidelines similar to those distributed by the Centers for Disease Control, have asked a legislative panel for $510,000 to develop educational materials for the schools and the general public and to establish sites for testing individuals for the disease.
Minnesota's state health department has also established an advisory panel to help districts evaluate special cases.
(In an interview with reporters in St. Paul last month, Secretary of Education William J. Bennett said the decision to admit a child with aids should be made by local school districts on a case-by-case basis. Asked if he would allow his own child to attend school with a pupil who had the disease, Mr. Bennett said the decision would depend upon the circumstances.)
And in the District of Columbia, where one student who has been exposed to the aids virus has sought admission to public schools, school officials have established a task force to develop guidelines by Dec. 1.
The student has been receiving separate in-school instruction since classes began on Sept. 3, but district officials plan to allow him to attend regular classes as soon as public-health officials confirm that he does not have the disease.
Ronald Colby, principal of Western Middle School in Kokomo, Ind., was scheduled late last week to make his recommendation regarding the schooling of Ryan White, a 7th grader who has aids.
Mr. Colby served as the chairman of a group of officials charged with determining whether Ryan should be placed in a special-education program, after a federal judge held last month that the boy's family should appeal through administrative procedures the district's decision not to permit him to attend classes.
Although Mr. Colby would not disclose the nature of his recommendation in an interview last week, he said Superintendent James O. Smith has the authority to make the final decision on Ryan's education.