Judge Declines to Order Boy Back into Classrooms
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ A federal judge today declined to rule on whether a 13-year-old AIDS victim should be allowed back into public school, saying the boy must first pursue administrative remedies in seeking admission to fall classes.
After hearing arguments on whether he could consider a request for an injunction, U.S. District Judge James Noland announced that he was staying the proceeding until the administrative avenues were pursued.
Ryan White had sought to force the Western School Corp. to allow him to attend classes in Howard County.
Lawyers for the school corporation argued that the case was controlled by a federal law governing access to education for handicapped students. The law sets out a procedure for handling appeals through the school administrative process before judicial review can be granted. Jeanne White, Ryan’s mother, described Noland’s action as ″silly.″
″I think it’s ridiculous that the judge didn’t have the courage to rule. He wanted to shove the decision on someone else. I felt he was copping out,″ she said.
Ryan, a hemophiliac, contracted acquired immune deficiency syndrome through a blood transfusion and has been out of school since last December.
In urging Noland to hear the case today, the Whites’ lawyer, Charles Vaughn, said the administrative process would drag on interminably.
″In an AIDS case, we cannot toy with time. Time is of the essence like in no other case in the world,″ he said.
School begins Aug. 26.
The suit alleges the school system violated Ryan’s rights to equal protection and illegally discriminated against him as a handicapped person.
Ryan’s physicians say he is capable of attending school. Superintendent James O. Smith said he fears Ryan’s condition could endanger the health of other students and faculty.
About 50 teachers, members of the Western Education Association, voted by a show of hands Thursday night to back Smith’s decision to keep White out of school.
The teachers said they were concerned that the disease might be transmitted by saliva, but acknowledged that the evidence was inconclusive.
AIDS, which robs the body of its disease-fighting abilities, can apparently be spread by sexual contact, contaminated needles and blood transfusions, but not by casual contact.
Teachers also said they were concerned about how other children would react to being in a classroom with Ryan.
″Parents have to be saying, ’Don’t get near the kid,‴ said teacher Bob Burkhalter.
″In addition to exposing others, we can’t keep Ryan from being exposed (to communicable diseases),″ said another teacher, Ty Calloway.