Boy, 11, Expelled Because of AIDS-Linked Antibody, Mother Says
The mother of an 11-year-old El Toro boy sought an injunction against the Saddleback Unified School District on Tuesday, claiming that he was expelled from school after it was discovered that he has an AIDS-linked antibody in his blood.
School district officials said the boy had never been expelled but was being tutored at home at his mother’s request.
In the court action, which demands to have the student reinstated at Rancho Canada Elementary School, the mother claims the boy is not suffering from the disease known as acquired immune deficiency syndrome and that he “presents no danger of infection to other students or members of the public.”
According to the legal action, the mother claims the district expelled the boy from his school in August or September “based on the revelation that the blood of the (student) contains certain antibodies indicating the presence of a certain virus known to cause . . . AIDS.”
Two school district board members emphatically denied Tuesday that the boy, who suffers from hemophilia, was expelled or was the subject of any disciplinary action.
Board Chairwoman Kristine Kister, when asked if the school district would allow the child to return to a regular classroom as early as Monday, replied, “No comment.”
School district sources said the boy transferred to the school last spring. They said his mother notified the district at that time that he was a hemophiliac. They said that before school started she informed a school psychologist and the district that she wanted to have the boy enrolled in a district-sponsored home teaching program because the boy had contracted AIDS.
The mother would not talk to reporters.
A man who identified himself as the mother’s fiance, said Tuesday night that the school district provided tutors over the summer because the boy was lagging behind in his studies due to his suffering from hemophilia. He said his fianceetook her son to a Long Beach clinic this summer to “see if he had AIDS.. . . We were just curious. No special reason. (The test for the antibody) came back positive.”
He said the boy’s blood lacks a clotting element and that the boy apparently picked up the antibodies of the AIDS virus from his hemophilia treatment.
The fiance said the boy was not formally expelled, but when the mother “asked for him to go back to school” in the fall, she was told by Joseph Platow, assistant superintendent of schools, “do not bring (the boy) back to school.”
Platow, reached Tuesday night at his home, declined to comment.
The mother’s fiance said the boy is being tutored twice a week at home for a total of four to six hours but he is still behind in his studies. The fiance said the child should be in the fifth grade but is probably working at a fourth-grade level.
Thomas Prendergast, Orange County epidemiologist, said there is no medical reason why children with AIDS or AIDS antibodies should not attend school, provided that the school community is educated to the lack of danger. He said there are no children in Orange County known to have AIDS.
Bill Honig, state superintendent of public instruction, said last month that he is seeking to develop guidelines on admitting students who have been exposed to the AIDS antibody. He said districts should decide on a case-by-case basis whether to admit such students and that the key should be whether the student poses any threat to others.
For instance, he said, it would be dangerous to admit preschool children with AIDS because very young children sometimes bite.
Similar sentiments were expressed last month by state Health Director Kenneth W. Kizer. Although he said the chance of children getting AIDS in schools is “essentially non-existent,” he would not rule out the possibility and cautioned school officials to make a “case-by-case” decision on whether to admit students with the disease.
Studies have shown that 70% of all individuals with AIDS antibodies in their system do not develop any symptoms of the disease.
This does not mean that those individuals may not be carriers of the virus. But studies in this country and in France by researchers who discovered the AIDS virus have been unable to establish that there has been any kind of transmission of the AIDS virus by any kind of casual contact in schools.
These studies were done specifically with school-age children in school settings. None to date has shown any transmission of the virus from one individual to another.
The most recent such study was done by Dr. Luc Montagnier of the Pasteur Institute in Paris. He is a co-discoverer of the AIDS virus.
The issue has sparked controversy elsewhere. In New York, a special panel’s decision to admit a second-grader with AIDS to a Queens elementary school brought a boycott of the school.
Nationally, officials estimate fewer than 200 children under 13 have AIDS. Kizer said that in California there are only five known AIDS cases among schoolchildren.
In Los Angeles County, eight children have been diagnosed with AIDS since 1981, but officials say none is attending school in the area.
In San Diego, the school board voted last month to ban all students with AIDS from the city schools, but to evaluate each employee with AIDS separately because it would be illegal to automatically ban them from work. Times staff writers Marcida Dodson and David Reyes, and Times medical writer Harry Nelson contributed to this story.