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Schools Stuggle With Issue Of AIDS Pupils

September 7, 1985

Undated (AP) _ New York City officials were considering how to deal with school children stricken with AIDS, while a lawyer accused an Indiana school district of delaying a decision on whether an AIDS patient may attend classes.

Elsewhere, officials at Swansea, Mass., have confirmed that an eighth- grader with AIDS has been attending school; New Haven, Conn., Superintendent John Dow Jr. said he won’t allow AIDS patients in school because parents are frightened; and a decision was pending on whether to allow a dying 5-year-old AIDS victim to attend kindergarten in Lee County, Fla.

AIDS, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, is a usually fatal affliction in which the body’s immune system becomes unable to resist disease. It is believed to be caused by a virus and apparently can be spread by sexual contact, contaminated hypodermic needles and blood transfusions, but not by casual contact. Some children of mothers with AIDS may be born with the disease.

Last week, the national Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta said each child with AIDS should be evaluated individually but that most should be allowed to attend school. The CDC said the benefits would outweigh ″the apparent nonexistent risk of transmission.″

New York City officials had said a four-member panel would make a decision before Monday’s scheduled start of classes for the city’s nearly 1 million public school students. Earlier this week, school officials said the city had four school-age children suffering from AIDS.

Marvin Bogner, a Health Department spokesman, said that since 1981, 77 children in New York have been diagnosed as AIDS sufferers. Most were of preschool age and only half are still alive, he said.

In Indiana, 13-year-old AIDS victim Ryan White returned to his Kokomo home Friday after hospitalization for a cough and fever, and his lawyer said officials of Western School Corp. are unnecessarily prolonging the administrative process required to get the boy back into class.

Lafayette attorney Charles Vaughan said Friday that school officials who have banned Ryan from classes could cut nearly two months off an appeals process necessary to get him back in the classroom by agreeing to a state Department of Education hearing.

School officials had refused to allow Ryan, who contracted AIDS while being treated for hemophilia, to attend classes and he had been monitoring seventh grade classes by telephone.

At Swansea, Mass., Principal Harold G. Devine Jr. said 15 students approached him Friday with plans to raise money for AIDS research after confirmation that a victim of the disease was attending school.

The boy appears to be the only school-aged AIDS sufferer in the country who has been allowed to attend classes by education officials, said Dr. Martha Rogers of the CDC.

But in New Haven, Conn., schools Superintendent John Dow Jr. said he won’t change his mind and allow pupils with AIDS attend school because parents are frightened by the disease.

″From the signs I’m getting from my community, there is extreme concern and fear,″ Dow said. ″It may not be right, but it’s real. That’s what I deal with.″

In Lee County, Fla., a 5-year-old, given only three to six months to live, and his family are awaiting a decision on whether the boy can attend kindergarten or should be taught at home.

Betsy Russell of Lee County’s special education department said the boy might be considered a special education student because his development may have lagged behind other 5-year-olds.

As of Sept. 2, AIDS had struck 12,932 people in the United States and claimed 6,481 lives since 1979. The CDC began keeping track on June 1, 1981, and traced back to 1979.