Ryan White SchoolTitle:聽School bars door to youth with AIDS

By:聽Christopher M. MacNeil聽

Date: August 31, 1985

Source:聽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 鈥渞unning around a problem they thought they wouldn鈥檛 have to deal with鈥

Jeanne E. White, whose son, Ryan, was diagnosed with the usually fatal virus in December, said she thinks Western administrators 鈥渉oped Ryan would be sicker than he is now so that they wouldn鈥檛 have to deal with him at school.鈥

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鈥檚 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.鈥

鈥淏ut 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,鈥 said Dr. James Barrett, director of the state board鈥檚 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.

鈥淲e did not receive the (state鈥檚) guidelines until yesterday (Tuesday). They鈥檙e under advisement by us, and as such we can鈥檛 make any further comment,鈥 said Nancy Mickelson.

She did say, however, that courses of action taken by corporations in dealing with AIDS children are 鈥渟chool decisions.鈥

It was Ryan鈥檚 case that prompted the state to prescribe the guidelines, according to a state health official.

Of the 45 confirmed AIDS patients statewide 鈥 three Howard County 鈥 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 鈥渞eal fine鈥 physically and stressed he is still passing his Kokomo Tribune paper route. He stressed even more he is 鈥渦pset鈥 with Smith鈥檚 decision not to allow him in school.

鈥淚 want to go back,鈥 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 鈥渦nknowns and uncertainties (about AIDS)鈥 and 鈥渢he inherent fear that would generate among classmates.

鈥淲e are obligated to provide an education for the child,鈥 Smith added, explaining Ryan 鈥渨ill have to receive instruction at home.鈥

鈥淏ut we are also in the habit of keeping kids out who have communicable diseases,鈥 he said.

AIDS researchers say the disease is spread by sexual contact 鈥 mainly among homosexual and bisexual men 鈥 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鈥檚 suggestion that Ryan receive at home education but said, 鈥淚 think he needs to be with children his own age. I think they鈥檙e (school administrators) robbing him鈥 by not allowing Ryan in school.

White added she tried 鈥渢o be sympathetic鈥 with the school corporation. But the administration鈥檚 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, 鈥淟egal action? I don鈥檛 know. We鈥檝e been through so much already鈥 that I think I鈥檒l let it set awhile.鈥

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