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Teacher Leader Says AIDS Child Should Be in School

December 23, 1987

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) _ An AIDS-stricken child, whose school superintendent sparked controversy by expelling her and saying she would be dead within months, won support Wednesday from a teacher leader in her bid to return to school.

″We believe quality of life is important, no matter how long the life is going to be, or how short it is going to be,″ said Mimi Dash, president of the 6,700-member Fairfax Education Association.

″If the student has AIDS and is otherwise normal, the child should be returned to the classroom,″ she said.

Robert Spillane, superintendent of Fairfax County schools, drew criticism for his Tuesday remarks questioning the motives of a lawsuit filed by the parents of the terminally ill child.

″This kid will be dead in a few months,″ Spillane said, according to The Washington Post. ″What’s the point of the lawyer?″

In an evening news interview Wednesday on WRC-TV, Spillane said he was quoted out of context.

″That hurts me so much to even hear that repeated. To characterize it as the Post did is false, misleading and embarrassing,″ he said.

″I think it’s deliberate. Obviously I’m absolutely dismayed about it. It’s incredible for me, and people who know me, to even consider making that kind of a comment.

″I said the unfortunate thing about this poor child ... is that this is a terminal case and that what we ought to be doing is looking at how we could make this most appropriate and better for this youngster in the next several months, rather than fighting out in court something that hasn’t even taken place.

″I may very well get a recommendation to admit this youngster under special circumstances under certain conditions. I don’t know, the lawyers don’t know, and yet they filed suit already.″

The student’s parents on Tuesday filed a federal court suit against the school district, seeking to return the girl to school. The family’s name was withheld for privacy reasons, said their attorney, Kenneth Labowitz.

The only details about the child’s medical status that have been released are that she was infected with the disease through a blood transfusion.

Spillane, at a press conference Tuesday, cited the system’s policy on contagious diseases in expelling the student. ″If you have a youngster with active AIDS, and the youngster cuts him or herself, which is very likely in an elementary school, then you have a real dangerous situation. I don’t want to expose other youngsters to that,″ he said.

Dash said that if the student is not bleeding or does not bite other students, there is no reason she should be prevented from entering classrooms with other students.

Labowitz said courts in Florida, California and Indiana have ordered schools to readmit children with acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

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