The Anne Arundel County teachers' union today asked Maryland's superintendent of schools to block the enrollment of a 3-year-old boy with herpes who is scheduled to begin a special education class in a county public school next week.
The union wants the child to stay home until an administrative complaint it filed with the local superintendent can be heard, said the teachers' attorney, Susan Russell. The complaint, which amounts to an appeal of Anne Arundel Superintendent Robert C. Rice's decision to admit the child to classes, was submitted shortly before 4 p.m. today.
If Rice refuses to reconsider his decision, the union could appeal to the county school board.
Parents of five children who would share the morning class with the boy joined with the teachers in both actions and notified Pasadena Elementary School that they will not send their children to class when the boy has open lesions.
"One has to weigh his needs against the needs of the other children," said Russell. "Under state law, every child is guaranteed a safe and healthy environment."
Today's actions capped two months of controversy that erupted when officials quietly began notifying parents that the boy would attend a special education class for a speech disability. Under federal law, the boy must receive instruction at an early age because of his disability, said school official Mary Madeleine.
Parents and teachers said they fear that the boy will come into contact with other children during periods when he has open lesions, which could spread the disease.
Jane Timberg, who was to teach the boy, has requested a transfer if he is admitted into her class because she was diagnosed as having eczema, a skin irritation, and is, therefore, more susceptible to infection, according to school officials.
Herpes is a viral disease, currently incurable, that commonly results in lesions or blisters on the skin. It has two forms: Type I, the more common variety causing cold sores, and Type II, known as genital herpes that usually appears below the waist. Both types can cause blindness, if eyes are infected, and can damage the nervous system.
The boy, who county health professionals said contracted herpes shortly after birth, has outbreaks on his hands and back. The boy has not been tested to determine what kind of herpes he has.
In its administrative complaint, the Teachers' Association of Anne Arundel County asked Rice to reconsider his decision to admit the child. If he is admitted, the union wants him kept out of school if he has open lesions and a health professional knowledgeable about herpes to inspect him daily for lesions.
Also, it is asking that any teacher who contracts the disease from a student be assured of continued employment and for the school system to cover any suits filed against a teacher by students who may contract the disease while in class.
Rice, who announced earlier this week he intended to admit the boy, said he had not fully read the complaint and had not received any direction from State Superintendent of Schools David G. Hornbeck on whether to admit the boy.