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Teacher With AIDS Returned To Classroom

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An Orange County, Calif., teacher who has aids must be reinstated in his classroom job, a federal appeals court ruled last Thursday.

There is no medical evidence to suggest that Vincent Chalk, a 43-year-old teacher of hearing-impaired students, would pose a health risk to his students, according to a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Mr. Chalk had not been back to the classroom since February, when he was first diagnosed as having acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Orange County school officials in August barred him from teaching and assigned him to a job writing grant proposals.

The case has been closely watched by school administrators and legal experts because it is one of the first legal actions brought against a school district by a teacher with the fatal disease.

In their unanimous ruling, the judges overturned a decision made by U.S. District Judge William Gray in September.

Saying that too little was known about the disease to allow Mr. Chalk's return to class, the lower-court judge had refused to grant a preliminary injunction blocking his transfer to a nonteaching job. (See Education Week, Sept. 23, 1987.)

The appellate panel instructed Judge Gray to issue an order reinstating Mr. Chalk.

"I think the clear implication of what happened is that the school district wanted the courts to tell them what they know they should have been doing all along," said Paul Hoffman, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represented Mr. Chalk.

"One of our hopes is that no other teacher will have to go through what Vincent Chalk has gone through," he said.

Robert Peterson, superintendent of schools in Orange County, said he hoped Mr. Chalk would return to class this week.

"We have tried to be as compassionate as we could be," Mr. Peterson said. "We wanted direction from the courts that could absolve us of any liability that could ensue any time over the next five years."--dv

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