AIDS Victim, 8, Kept Out of Carmel School; ‘Reasonable Social Environment’ Sought
An 8-year-old boy diagnosed as having AIDS is being kept from attending his third-grade class at a Carmel public school until “a reasonable social environment” can be created to facilitate the child’s acceptance in the classroom, school officials said Thursday.
Officials at the 2,201-student Carmel Unified School District said they hope that the boy will be able to attend classes by early November. Until then, he will be taught at home by a tutor.
“We’re seeking a reasonable social environment for the child--not one of hysteria like in New York,” Schools Supt. Robert Infelise said. “Whether we can do this will determine whether he should return to class.”
(In New York, parents in two Queens school districts organized a classroom boycott after a special panel admitted a second-grader with AIDS. Attendance in the districts was down 25% as parents demanded to know the child’s name and which school she was attending. A court hearing on whether the child should be barred from school began Thursday.)
Doctors at Stanford University determined earlier this summer that the Carmel boy, a hemophiliac who attended River (Elementary) School, contracted the incurable disease through blood transfusions. The parents and school officials agreed that the child should stay home until the district could formulate policy regarding AIDS-stricken students, Infelise said.
“We’re hoping to educate ourselves and the community about AIDS rather than create a hysterical atmosphere,” said school board member Claudia Daniels, who has two children enrolled in Carmel schools. “So far, we’ve had few phone calls from parents, and at a parent’s meeting at River School (Wednesday night) there was a very positive response.”
“Our role is to protect the child and everyone else in the school district by coming up with a humane and sensible way of dealing with this,” said Hilton Bialek, another school board member.
Nationwide, more than 150 cases of AIDS have been diagnosed among children, according to figures released in late August. A spokesman for the AIDS Center at the state Department of Health Services said 22 children in California have been diagnosed as having AIDS. About half have died from it or diseases related to the syndrome, and five attend schools around the state.
In Los Angeles County, eight children have been diagnosed as having AIDS since 1981, Dr. Martin Finn, medical director of the county’s public health programs, said. Two of these are children of parents in the category of persons at high risk of contracting AIDS; the other six contracted the disease through blood transfusions.
“Our policy is that, if a private physician sees no reason for a child not to be in school, then they can attend,” Finn said. “We just ask that the physician keep in contact with school officials about the child’s condition.”
At this time, no children with AIDS are attending schools in the Los Angeles area, although Finn said that a preschool child in the South Bay was being given instruction at home.