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4-Year-Old AIDS Victim Suspended from School, Father Says

September 10, 1986

ATASCADERO, Calif. (AP) _ A 4-year-old boy with AIDS was suspended from school because he bit another child, just six days after his parents won a 10-month battle to have him admitted, the child’s father said today.

Ryan Thomas, who contracted the deadly disease through a blood transfusion shortly after birth, will not be allowed to go back to Santa Rosa Road Elementary School unless a special placement committee approves his readmission, his father, Robin Thomas, said by telephone.

Anthony Avina, superintendent of the Atascadero Unified School District, said he asked Thomas to keep Ryan at home ″because the young man exhibited a form of behavior that necessitated confinement.″

″We have asked him to stay home, and we’ve offered to provide a home teacher, which was refused,″ Avina said today. ″We have to operate in a prudent manner and assure the safety of our students.″

Avina said a hearing was planned Friday before a placement committee composed of a district psychologist, consultant and attorney, a county health officer, a teachers’ representative, a PTA representative and the school nurse.

The committee recommended earlier that the boy be allowed to attend the school.

″We are taking the situation back to the committee to determine whether the placement is correct,″ the superintendent of the 4,600-student district said.

″The family is frustrated, and we understand that,″ Avina said.

Ryan was playing with friends on the kindergarten floor Monday when another boy came up behind him, jabbed him in the back with his elbow, grabbed Ryan’s hair and wrestled him to the floor, Thomas said.

Ryan ″turned his head a little bit and bit him (the other boy) on the leg to let him go,″ Thomas said. ″He did not break the skin, either. (It was) barely enough to make a mark.″

According to the father, neither the boy’s parents nor the teacher were concerned about the episode. But Thomas said the school principal called Monday evening and told him not to bring Ryan back to school.

Late Sept. 2, the day school began, a nine-member special placement committee agreed to allow Ryan to attend kindergarten in the small city about 170 miles northwest of Los Angeles. His parents had battled for 10 months to gain their son’s admittance.

Ryan, who entered Santa Rosa Road the next day, has suffered from acquired immune deficiency syndrome since he was 2 weeks old, but he’s relatively healthy, Thomas said.

AIDS cripples the body’s disease-fighting immune system, leaving its victims vulnerable to a variety of life-threatening infections and certain cancers.

It is most frequently transmitted through sexual contact or through exchanges of contaminated blood. Most experts have said there is no evidence it can be transmitted through saliva.

As of Sept. 1, AIDS had been diagnosed in 24,430 people in the United States and had claimed 13,342 lives, according to the national Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

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