The Fairfax County School Board yesterday ordered Superintendent Robert R. Spillane to draft a policy for handling students and teachers with AIDS to reassure the public that a consistent procedure is in effect.

The action came four days after the mother of a kindergarten pupil with AIDS sued to force the county to return her daughter to class.

Emerging from a two-hour closed meeting, board members also announced that they asked the school system's attorney "to research the question of whether additional state legislation is needed that would be helpful to school divisions that must deal with children with serious illnesses."

The board ordered Spillane to draft a policy for discussion Jan. 7, the day before a hearing on the mother's motion for a preliminary injunction to force her child's return to school.

Board members said the policy would not be adopted until after public hearings, and member Anthony Cardinale said it likely would not apply to the girl's case because by the time it is implemented, "probably this case will be settled."

The School Board's written policy is likely to state that each case is handled individually, and to list the procedures involved, such as appointment of a medical review committee, board members said.

The policy may not make general statements on whether children with AIDS should be in school, but in the words of board member Kohann Whitney, "when a policy is adopted, it gives a sense of the direction that the board is adopting and the board's philosophy."

The unusual Saturday session, hurriedly scheduled three days ago, capped a week of criticism of Spillane over the school system's handling of the case and the superintendent's comment Tuesday questioning the mother's lawsuit against the region's largest school system. The legal action is the first in the Washington area challenging a child's removal from school for having AIDS.

School Board members were tight-lipped after the meeting, saying that any comment could affect the outcome of the lawsuit. But several said that Spillane's comments were not discussed during the meeting.

The mother of the girl, who was sent home from kindergarten last month, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Alexandria Tuesday seeking her return, as well as enactment of a "policy insuring access to the defendants' programs for {the} child and others afflicted with AIDS." Lawyer Kenneth Labowitz, who represents the mother, said the girl is believed to have been exposed to the AIDS virus through a blood transfusion shortly after birth.

Labowitz said the lawsuit was the fifth such legal action in the nation; in the other four cases, federal judges have ordered AIDS victims readmitted to school. In some other school systems, children with AIDS have been integrated into regular classes without legal action.

Spillane and School Board members say that their unwritten policy is to handle such situations on a case-by-case basis, relying on a state law barring children with contagious diseases from public classrooms. At a news conference Tuesday, Spillane said he was awaiting the recommendation of a medical review board in the case, but it was unlikely he would let a child with AIDS attend school because of the risk to other students.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and the state Health Department have issued guidelines saying that most children with AIDS should be allowed to attend public school without restriction.

The decision to adopt a written policy was partly in response to criticism that the superintendent's comments appeared to draw conclusions before having all the facts. Board Chairman Mary E. Collier said she requested a written policy Wednesday "so it's clear that we don't make decisions before we get a medical evaluation of each child or employe."

The mother's lawyers also have criticized the school system for lack of a policy. The county Council of PTAs, which has been urging adoption of an AIDS policy for months, plans to ask the board not to rush to action without allowing at least a month of public comment.

The board chose to have its lawyer investigate possible state legislation because "they want to know if there is any state legislative action that would help schools in making a decision," said school system spokeswoman Dolores Bohen.

One problem is that the contagious-disease law was written to apply to "measles and chicken pox and routine things that automatically go away," Bohen said.

But when people get AIDS, "they have AIDS forever and ever. And so at some point, it {the contagious-disease law} runs out as an umbrella," she said.

The chairman of the superintendent's community advisory council, Brenda Z. Greene, applauded the board's decision to look into additional state laws. If the School Board feels bound by the contagious-disease law, she said, that law should be amended to "deal with the special nature of AIDS."

Spillane's handling of the case became a major issue after he told reporters Tuesday that the child's life would be happier had the case been settled peacefully without court action. "This kid will be dead in a few months," the superintendent said. "What's the point of the lawyer?"

As complaints about the comment's insensitivity poured in from parents and others, Spillane issued a statement that "the callousness of the printed remark reflects neither my personal feelings nor the position of the Fairfax County public schools."

A three-member review panel met Thursday to hear evidence from the child's doctor, social worker and lawyers about her condition. The panel will pass on that information to Richard K. Miller, county health director, who will recommend to Spillane whether the child should be allowed back in school. If Spillane decides to expel the child, his action must be confirmed by the School Board to take effect.