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URGENT AIDS Schoolboy Back in Classroom But Judge Rules Against Him

February 22, 1986

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) _ Ryan White, the 14-year-old boy who was banned from school because he has AIDS, went back to the classroom Friday, but a judge later issued a temporary order to keep him from returning.

Before the ruling by Circuit Judge Alan Brubaker, Ryan said it was ″good to be back″ at Western Middle School. Dozens of parents kept their children home in protest.

Brubaker’s ruling came after a parents group requested that Ryan be barred from classes because he has a communicable disease.

The judge said he agreed with parents who argued that pupils could be harmed if Ryan were in school.

″The plaintiffs presently have no other adequate remedy under the law and they have some likelihood of success″ in winning a favorable decision in a full hearing, he said. He did not set a date for another hearing.

More than 80 people filled the courtroom as Brubaker issued his ruling after the three-hour hearing, and many cheered and applauded.

″I’m upset,″ said Ryan’s mother, Jeanne White. ″I think anybody that was there would have to be upset. I was stunned. Ryan is very disappointed. He really enjoyed school today.″

Principal Ronald Colby said Ryan’s return to school, opposed by many parents, had gone without incident.

″Ryan was accepted by the children,″ Colby added. ″I saw no one cringing up against the wall.″

Ryan, whose acquired immune deficiency syndrome stems from blood treatments taken for hemophilia, said as he left school that his first day back ″was a lot of fun. It was good to be back.″

He said he was treated ″just like everybody else. They just came up, a lot of them, and said, ’Hi.‴

Colby said 151 of the 360 students, just over 40 percent, were absent. In 35 cases, he said, parents specified that they were keeping their children home because of the AIDS controversy.

″I was frankly surprised that we had over 50 percent of our students,″ he said. Absenteeism had been higher than normal in the last two weeks, at 10 percent to 15 percent, because of influenza, he added.

School officials banned Ryan from classes last summer, though he has listened in on classes from home through a special telephone hookup. He had been out of school since December 1984, when his AIDS was first diagnosed, but until last summer he was too ill to attend.

A state school department’s decision that he could return to classes was challenged by school officials, but an appeals board said the boy could return with the approval of the county medical officer.

Kathy Shepherd, the mother of one of Ryan’s classmates, said she kept her daughter at home because ″I don’t want to take the chance of her becoming a victim of that down the road.″

″If you know there’s a danger you try to protect yourself,″ her husband, Allen, said. ″We’re trying to protect our children.″

When Ryan arrived at the school Friday morning, there were no parents demonstrating. About 15 minutes later, though, a student of Western High School, which is located next door, posed for photographers in front of the middle school with a sign that read: ″Students Against AIDS.″

The student, Don Hochstedler, said he had nothing against Ryan; ″I just got something against his disease.″

Ryan was dropped off by his stepfather and sister, Colby said. The boy was rushed in a side entrance, away from reporters and photographers.

″He was smiling but he didn’t say anything,″ said 12-year-old Tricia Shelton, a classmate of Ryan’s who saw him arrive.

″I’m one of the people who thinks he should be allowed back,″ she said, but many of Ryan’s fellow students ″want him to stay home because they’re scared.″

Dr. Alan J. Adler, the Howard County health officer, decided last week that Ryan’s condition would not be a threat to other students as long as precautions were taken while he attended school.

The precautions, approved by the state Board of Health, include requiring Ryan to use a separate restroom and to use disposable tableware in the school cafeteria, Colby said.

Experts say that AIDS, which is nearly always fatal, cannot be transmitted through casual contact. The virus can be transmitted by transfusions of blood or blood products, as in Ryan’s case; the sharing of contaminated needles by intravenous drug abusers; sexual contact; or infection from mother to child before or around the time of birth.

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