The Prince George's County Board of Education and school officials across the county are facing the troublesome issue of whether children and teachers with acquired immune deficiency syndrome should be kept out of the classroom.
The board is scheduled to take up a resolution tonight that would prohibit children and teachers with AIDS from attending school. Board Chairman Angelo Castelli, who proposed the resolution, said it would provide home teaching for children with the deadly disease, while teachers would be put on disability leave.
"I simply don't believe we in a position of public trust can expose any of our students or employes to anyone having or suspected of having AIDS," said Castelli. "The bottom line is there is no known cure for AIDS."
The issue has been debated recently in most Washington area jurisdictions. In Fairfax County, Superintendent Robert R. Spillane announced earlier this month he would exclude pupils and employes with AIDS from school.
There have been no reported cases of students or teachers with AIDS in Prince George's County schools. AIDS is transmitted through bodily fluids, health experts say, and not by casual contact.
Castelli introduced his resolution as an emergency action, which allows the board to vote on it tonight, instead of following the usual procedure of waiting until the next meeting.
Several board members are still undecided on the proposed policy.
"A ban of this kind does not appear justified," said board member Thomas Hendershot, who would prefer a case-by-case approach. "It is unwise to let fear dictate policy decisions."
The state health department is also in the process of drawing up recommendations. In the meantime, officials at the federal Centers for Disease Control have issued guidelines advising that children with AIDS should not be kept out of school because the disease cannot be spread through casual contact.
A ban of the type recommended by Castelli, said Dr. Nigel Jackman of the county Health Department, "is not supported by the present evidence we have." But he added: "Of course, it's the prerogative of the school board."
Parent organizations in the county also are wrestling with the AIDS dilemma. A resolution similar to Castelli's was offered at a meeting of the County Council of PTAs this week, but was postponed for consideration until next month.
"My feelings are ambivalent," said Jeanne Washburn, president of the PTA organization. "We can still be researching, we can still be rational and sensible . . . . We are lucky in this county that it hasn't come up."