Debate on AIDS Policies Growing, As Congressional Bill Is Considered
As school districts and state education officials continue to wrestle with the question of how to deal with children with acquired immune deficiency syndrome, a U.S. Congressman from California is considering introducing legislation that would prohibit children with aids from attending public school.
"We're saying that the scientific community today does not have sufficient information on the subject of aids for us to say that it is safe for children with aids to be in school with other children," said Duane J. Crumb, press secretary to Representative William Dannemeyer, a Republican, who is seeking support for his proposal.
"Until we know more, until the cdc [Centers for Disease Control] can say that the kind of contact that children have with one another on the playground cannot spread the disease--and they cannot say that unequivocally--we're not going to be comfortable with kids in school," Mr. Crumb said.
The cdc recommended in guidelines distributed in late August that most children with aids be allowed unrestricted access to schools and other child-care settings. But it also suggested that decisions on whether to admit students be made with attention to the risks and benefits both to the infected child and to others in the setting. (See Education Week, Sept. 11, 1985.)
Congressman Dannemeyer, a member of the subcommittee on health and the environment of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has sent letters to his colleagues informing them of his plan to introduce such legislation. He has not yet determined the scope of the bill's enforcement provisions, Mr. Crumb said.
New Jersey Case
In other recent developments:
In New Jersey, school officials in Washington Borough have decided to allow a 9-year-old boy who has been exposed to the aids virus to at-tend school. Officials filed suit earlier this month to overturn the ruling of a state medical panel that the boy be admitted to classes.
District officials still have not complied with a state order to conduct a behavioral evaluation of the boy's 5-year-old sister, who is said to have aids-related complex, according to Seymour Weiss, a spokesman for the state education department.
State officials plan to have the evaluation, which will be used to determine the girl's ability to attend school, conducted by their own team. They also plan to protest, possibly in court, the district's requirement that the boy be tested monthly to determine his condition.
The hearing on a suit challenging the decision by New York City officials to admit to school a 2nd grader who was said to have aids was expected to come to an end last week, according to Robert Terte, a spokesman for the city board of education. The hearing on the suit, filed by two Queens school boards, was in its fifth week in New York Supreme Court in Jamaica.
A decision in the case is expected to be handed down before January.
In Colorado, the state board of education voted that local districts should make decisions regarding the education of students with aids on a case-by-case basis. The board also instructed the commissioner of education and his staff to prepare a set of statewide guidelines that are expected to be adopted at the board's November meeting.
In Missouri, Commissioner of Education Arthur L. Mallory, along with the state division of health, this month sent letters to school districts encouraging them to follow the cdc's guidelines on admitting students with aids to school.
And in Michigan, an advisory panel named to study the education of children with aids is scheduled to recommend guidelines to the state board of education this week. Districts were advised to establish local policies to deal with the issue until the board distributes state guidelines.