A D.C. school board committee recommended yesterday that the city follow guidelines suggested by a federal agency and allow children with AIDS to attend school with other students until a permanent policy is adopted.
The recommendation, which now goes to the full board, comes a week after it was reported that a hemophiliac student who had been exposed to the deadly acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) virus, had been barred by school officials from attending classes with other pupils and was receiving separate instruction.
School board President R. David Hall said that the student with AIDS-Related Complex, who remains unidentified, "has not been admitted back to classes that have other children in them. This is a safety precaution. We're awaiting a final report by the D.C. commissioner of public health before we make our final recommendation concerning that child."
The school services committee adopted the guidelines issued last month by the federal Centers for Disease Control. The guidelines state, in part, that students with AIDS should be allowed to attend classes because there is no evidence that the disease can be spread through casual contact. However, the center also suggested that cases be examined on an individual basis.
AIDS, a fatal disease, destroys its victims' immune systems, leaving them vulnerable to other serious diseases, such as cancer.
The school board committee also recommended creation of a task force to advise the board on permanent policies on how AIDS victims should be handled by school officials.
"The task forces will move us towards long-range policy development," said committee Chairman Eugene Kinlow. "We want to make sure we take a careful and thorough look at the problem before we institute public policy," he said. Kinlow said the task force, which would consist of health and education experts, would file a preliminary report within 90 to 120 days if the board agrees to its creation.
James Graham, a spokesman for the Whitman-Walker Clinic, which specializes in health care for homosexuals and lesbians, said the committee's recommended policy "is a very constructive step. It makes a lot of sense because those guidelines have been thoughtfully considered by experts." The gay community, which has suffered a disproportionate number of AIDS cases, "will be very supportive," Graham said.
"The task force should deal with such issues as possible discrimination against AIDS victims," Graham said. "Their civil rights need to be protected," he added.
Hall said, "A great deal of discussion is called for and that's what the task force will deal with."