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Health Officer Says AIDS Victim Ryan White Can Return To School

February 14, 1986

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) _ A county medical officer examined 14-year-old AIDS victim Ryan White on Thursday and certified that he can return to school without posing any health threat to his classmates or teacher.

The Western School Corp., which has barred the youth from attending class, does not plan to appeal the ruling, said board president Daniel Carter.

Ryan, who contracted acquired immune deficiency syndrome through contaminated blood products taken for his hemophilia, was examined by Dr. Alan J. Adler, the Howard County health officer, for 40 minutes Thursday morning.

Adler said his examination indicated Ryan posed no health threat to his classmates and teachers.

″I do not propose to be an expert on AIDS,″ the doctor said later. ″However, I’ve reviewed as much literature as I could. It is my opinion that his attendance in school in a normal manner will not pose a threat.″

The state Board of Special Education Appeals ruled last week that Ryan should be allowed to attend school, provided Adler gave his OK.

Charles Vaughan, the attorney for the Whites, said he was ″very pleased with the decision. I feel that Ryan will be back in the classroom soon. I feel like the long battle is over.″

Ryan’s mother, Jeanne White said the examination was ″just your normal exam, but he (Adler) looked more into how Ryan was emotionally and how it would be for him to go back to school.″

″I think we have to respect his decision,″ she said. But she indicated that if Adler had ruled against a return to school she would have continued her fight in federal court.

Ryan was banned from attending Western Middle School after his AIDS was diagnosed in December 1984. Since September, a special telephone hookup has allowed him to listen in on his classes.

Adler said he asked that Ryan wait for about a week before returning to class because of current flu problems in the school, and that he and his mother seemed to agree. However, he said, Ryan ″has the full right to attend tomorrow″ with the permit Adler issued.

AIDS disrupts the body’s immune system, making victims vulnerable to infection. No cure has been found for the disease, which is usually fatal.

Adler said he did not think Ryan would be in danger of picking up illnesses from other students, despite his damaged immune system.

The AIDS virus is not spread through casual contact, experts say. It can be transmitted by sexual contact, the sharing of contaminated hypodermic needles by intravenous drug abusers, transfusions of blood or blood products, or infection from mother to child before or around the time of birth.

School officials said earlier this week that Adler would have to assume liability if he issued a permit, but Adler said Thursday, ″I’ve made this decision acting as the county heath officer. I assume I can be sued like anyone else. But I’m willing to take that responsiblilty.″

School board attorney David Day said that Thursday’s decision ″is the first time you’ve had a doctor who has said that it poses no threat and that he will take responsibility if it does.″

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