Boy Once Shunned Because of Herpes Now Mingles In Class
Jan. 15, 1986
PASADENA, Md. (AP) _ A year after he was shunned because he had herpes, a 4-year-old boy is mingling happily with classmates and teachers, and his parents say there was never reason to fear he would infect others.
''He educated the public,'' Anne Arundel County special education director Mary Madeleine said of Johnny Bigley.
A few months before Johnny entered Pasadena Elementary School last January, his father, Ed Bigley, disclosed the illness to school officials and parents at public meetings. Johnny has occasional herpes sores, sometimes filled with fluid, mostly on his back. The source of his disease is unknown.
Bigley didn't have to tell other parents about the disease, but he hoped he could calm fears in advance of Johnny's arrival. He said the sores would be covered, preventing infection to others.
But the boy's pre-school class was boycotted by his five classmates, the teacher transferred to another school, and parents and teachers asked the county school board and the courts to ban Johnny from school.
The State Board of Education established guidelines for placement of students with communicable diseases, saying in effect that children like Johnny should not be excluded.
County education officials said the boy should be allowed in school as long as the lesions were covered.
Bigley said he and his wife Mary tried to ''give the community time to find out about John and herpes. It was a matter of quieting our own rage and giving people time. We knew Johnny posed no threat, and it was really just getting other people to understand that.''
''When someone said, 'Is it true you can catch herpes from the wall,' we didn't laugh. We said, 'No you can't, and this is why,''' Bigley said.
In the year since the uproar, the parents say, Johnny has learned the alphabet, has worked on a speech impediment unrelated to herpes and has become accepted by classmates, who slowly returned.
He frequently shows younger children around school and rode on a bus on a recent field trip.
''He is making good progress,'' said Phyllis Mentzell, school principal. ''We're pleased.''
''All the stress is gone,'' Mrs. Bigley said. ''The TV cameras are gone; he knows the class; he knows the routine.''