N.E.A. Suggests 'Reasonable Cause' Guidelines on AIDS
Washington--School officials who have "reasonable cause" to believe a teacher or student has aids or is an aids carrier should be able to require a medical evaluation of that individual, according to guidelines released by the National Education Association at a press conference here last week.
The nea guidelines do not advocate the "categorical admission or exclusion" of aids-infected school employees or students, said Robert H. Chanin, general counsel to the 1.6-million member teachers' organization. But they suggest that such a determi-nation be made at the local level on a "case-by-case" basis by a team of public-health personnel, the aids victim's physician, and appropriate school personnel.
The guidelines are "consistent," Mr. Chanin said, with the recommendations made by the federal Centers for Disease Control for dealing with aids-infected students. (See Education Week, Sept. 11, 1985.)
The nea document, adopted by the organization's 130-member board of directors on Oct. 5 and distributed to nea state affiliates last week, also states that the identity of an aids-infected student or teacher should not be "publicly revealed."
"The guidelines are designed to strike a balance between the right of an aids victim to an education or continued employment, and the right of other students and school employees to be free from the risk of exposure to a fatal disease," said Mary Hatwood Futrell, president of the nea, in a prepared statement.
The American Federation of Teachers has not yet developed a policy
on aids, but will discuss the issue at its executive-council meeting in
early November, according to a spokesman for the organization. The aft
has distributed the cdc
guidelines to all of its affiliates.
The new nea guidelines state that "if a school employer has reasonable cause to believe that a student or school employee is an infected individual, the school employer may require said individual to submit to an appropriate medical evaluation."
The nea is opposed to "blanket" testing of all students and teachers for aids, Mr. Chanin said.
Reasonable cause would exist, the guidelines state, if the spouse of a school employee had aids, or if a school employee recently had given birth to a child with aids.
"The sexual orientation of a student or school employee shall not constitute reasonable cause to believe that he or she is an infected individual," according to the guidelines.
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome, the result of a virus that attacks the immune system and prevents the body from fighting infection as it normally would, is not known to be transmittable through casual contact. According to public-health experts, the disease is known to be transmitted through sexual contact, blood transfusions, and contaminated hypodermic needles.
The majority of those who have contracted aids are homosexuals, hemophiliacs, or drug addicts.
The most recent cdc statistics indicate that of the 12,599 individuals reported to have aids, 183 are children under age 18. To date, none of the identified cases of aids in the United States are known to have been transmitted in school, day-care, or foster-care settings, according to the federal agency.
The nea guidelines also stipulate that teachers and other school employees should not be required to "teach or provide other personal-contact services to an infected student or to work with an infected school employee" if a medical team has determined that the individual should be excluded from the school setting.
If a student is not permitted to attend classes, the guidelines state, the school should make every "reasonable" effort to provide him or her with an "adequate" alternative education.
"To the extent that this requires personal contact between the student and school employees, only those school employees who volunteer shall be utilized," the guidelines state.
The nea will provide legal assistance, Mr. Chanin said, to any school employee who "is subjected to adverse action" because he or she refuses to teach a student or work with another school employee if there is "reasonable cause" to believe that the individual is infected with aids.
Mr. Chanin said that in cases where there is reasonable cause to believe an individual either has aids or is an aids carrier, the individual should be removed from the school setting until a team of health and school officials can make a determination about whether to exclude the student or school employee from the school.
Mr. Chanin said that since schools opened this fall, his office has been "inundated" with requests for help in developing an aids policy. Due to this widespread concern, he said, the nea has suggested that every school district in the nation establish guidelines to cope with the problems presented by students and school employees who have or could transmit aids.
Although developing an aids policy properly rests with local school officials, Mr. Chanin said, he has advised affiliates of the nea to become involved in the process.
"It is our recommendation that our locals go to school boards and try to put this, or something they are both comfortable with, in place in case the problem arises," Mr. Chanin said.
"The number of subsidiary problems that are going to come up are mind-boggling," he said. "We have not made an attempt to deal with them all or even flag them all--we
are looking for a general direction."
He said the fear of aids may cause some local nea affiliates to "turn their backs on what we suggest." But, he added, "We think there can be a middle ground, and we believe most reasonable school districts will go along with what we propose and not react in hysteria."
In related developments:
New York City will equip all classrooms with alcohol-dipped swabs and will provide custodians with rubber gloves to reduce the chances that the aids virus will be transmitted through the saliva, bleeding, or other body fluids of aids-infected students, Nathan Quinones, superintendent of New York City schools, announced this month.
Mr. Quinones also testified lastweek in hearings before the New York Supreme Court in Queens that at least three children had been removed from classes this fall by local school officials because of "suspicions" that boyfriends of the students' mothers had aids.
The hearings are the result of a lawsuit filed by two community school boards in Queens challenging the city's aids policy, which allows students with the disease to attend classes if a panel including medical experts, an educator, and a parent approves.
Early this month, the Mount Vernon, N.Y., board of education and Dutchess County, N.Y., school officials voted to exclude students or employees who test positive for aids until health and school officials can review the cases and decide whether the aids-infected individuals can return to school.
Last week, school officials of Wash-ington Borough in Warren, N.J., filed suit to overturn the state's aids policy, which permits students with aids to attend classes if a panel of doctors grants approval.
The school district has barred from school a 5-year-old girl with aids-related complex, a milder form of the disease, and her 9-year-old brother, whose test results for aids were negative.
The superintendent of public instruction in Nevada has suggested creating a committee to draft a model statewide aids policy.
The California Task Force on aids has advised the state superintendent of public instruction, Bill Honig, that children with aids should be allowed to attend class under close supervision because there is little risk of transmitting the disease at school.
The department of education will issue a model aids policy, based on the task force's recommendation, to local school districts later this month, a spokesman for the department said.