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Principal Makes Fifth-Grader’s AIDS Project A No-Show At Science Fair

March 25, 1989

WAVELAND, Miss. (AP) _ A fifth-grader’s science fair project on AIDS won her an ″A″ but was sequestered in the principal’s office when school officials feared exposing students to a discussion about the deadly disease.

James Baldree, principal at Waveland Elementary School, kept Angela Eades’ project from appearing at the school’s science fair and a regional competition earlier this week.

He also refused to allow anyone to look at it, including teachers and parents.

″Students are required to verbally ‘defend’ their projects for the judges, and we felt it would be a severe imposition to expect judges to have to question a 10-year-old girl about such a project,″ he said.

Angela’s project, a pegboard with AIDS spelled in red letters across it and pasted with magazine articles, earned her a blue ribbon and an ″A″ grade, but Baldree said two teachers decided the project did not meet science fair rules.

The rules disallow projects on vertebrate animals and on physical matters relating to humans. But there was also worry about the display’s sensitive subject matter, he said.

″Other fair participants usually listen in when the judges ask questions - students all the way down to kindergarten - and we didn’t think it would be right to expose children of those young ages to that kind of discussion.″

Baldree described the project as sexually explicit. The articles included information on how acquired immune deficiency syndrome is most often spread - through sexual contact, needles or syringes shared by drug abusers, infected blood or blood products, and from pregnant women to their offspring.

Angela said she had planned a project on the human heart. ″I was looking through some books and found a lot of information on AIDS. It’s a disease anybody can get, so I decided that would be a better project,″ she said.

Teona Eades, Angela’s mother, said she wasn’t aware the project did not meet the rules until a coordinator told her it was unacceptable.

″We have no problem with (the school officials’) actions; they had to follow the rules,″ Mrs. Eades said. ″But if those rules are going to shield our children from reality, that’s not very scientific.″

Angela said she thought fourth- and fifth-graders should have been able to see the project because ″we are already talking about AIDS.″ She said her project could have helped educate other students about the disease.

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