1985- Ryan White Banned From School Because of AIDS

Ryan White SchoolTitle: School bars door to youth with AIDS

By: Christopher M. MacNeil 
Date: August 31, 1985
Source: Kokomo Tribune
The mother of a local 13-year-old AIDS patient who has been barred from attending classes at Western Middle School today accused the school administration of “running around a problem they thought they wouldn’t have to deal with”
Jeanne E. White, whose son, Ryan, was diagnosed with the usually fatal virus in December, said she thinks Western administrators “hoped Ryan would be sicker than he is now so that they wouldn’t have to deal with him at school.”
Tuesday Western Superintendent James O. Smith announced that Ryan, an incoming seventh-grader, would not be allowed in school because he has acquired immune deficiency syndrome, the lethal virus that renders the body’s disease-fighting ability powerless.
However, an intern set of guidelines released Tuesday by the state Board of Health recommended that school-age AIDS patients who feel well enough should be in school.’
“But any person with AIDS is going to be sick an awful lot and there will be plenty of times when it might be rather difficult administrative problem,” said Dr. James Barrett, director of the state board’s communicable disease division.
Meanwhile, the public nurse for the Howards County Board of Health this morning did not confirm nor deny a reported claim by Smith that his decision to ban Ryan from the classroom is backed by the health department.
“We did not receive the (state’s) guidelines until yesterday (Tuesday). They’re under advisement by us, and as such we can’t make any further comment,” said Nancy Mickelson.
She did say, however, that courses of action taken by corporations in dealing with AIDS children are “school decisions.”
It was Ryan’s case that prompted the state to prescribe the guidelines, according to a state health official.
Of the 45 confirmed AIDS patients statewide – three Howard County – Ryan is believed to be the only one of school age.
Two other Howard County residents are among the 29 AIDS deaths in Indiana.
Ryan said this morning he feels “real fine” physically and stressed he is still passing his Kokomo Tribune paper route. He stressed even more he is “upset” with Smith’s decision not to allow him in school.
“I want to go back,” Ryan said.
Smith did not return any calls to the Tribune today. But he said in a published report that he based his decision on the “unknowns and uncertainties (about AIDS)” and “the inherent fear that would generate among classmates.
“We are obligated to provide an education for the child,” Smith added, explaining Ryan “will have to receive instruction at home.”
“But we are also in the habit of keeping kids out who have communicable diseases,” he said.
AIDS researchers say the disease is spread by sexual contact – mainly among homosexual and bisexual men – and by intravenous drugs users and through blood transfusions.
Ryan suffers from hemophilia, a condition that prevents blood from clotting normally, and is suspected of acquiring AIDS though a tainted blood product.
The virus has been fatal in almost half of the near 12,000 confirmed cases nationwide.
White did not discount Smith’s suggestion that Ryan receive at home education but said, “I think he needs to be with children his own age. I think they’re (school administrators) robbing him” by not allowing Ryan in school.
White added she tried “to be sympathetic” with the school corporation. But the administration’s decision is another in several personal, financial and legal problems that White said she has encountered since Ryan was diagnosed.
Asked if she might explore possible legal action against the school system, White said, “Legal action? I don’t know. We’ve been through so much already… that I think I’ll let it set awhile.”