Monday, September 16, 2013

Pea Ridge schools bar students over HIV concerns

Posted By on Mon, Sep 16, 2013 at 8:45 AM

The Pea Ridge School District apparently has banned attendance by three local children until they prove they have not tested HIV-positive.

The decision is drawing growing attention around the web.

Here, Think Progress summarizes:

... Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, public schools may not ban children simply based on their HIV status.

The three siblings — two of whom have disabilities — are living with a foster family and attending the Pea Ridge Public School District. But school district officials recently found documentation that suggested the birth mother and one of the kids are both HIV-positive, and told the foster family that none of the children could return to school until they provided proof that they don’t have the virus. When the kids were sent to school the next day anyway, they were “set aside until the foster parents picked them up,” according to a local news outlet.

The Disability Rights Center of Arkansas is accusing the school district of illegally discriminating against the children. They say that school officials have no right to demand medical testing at whim — particularly since, even if the children did test positive for HIV, they would still have the right to attend public school.

“The fact that the foster families have to provide documentation that the children are HIV negative before entering the school is unlawful and immoral,” the group said in a statement last week. “It stigmatizes individuals with disabilities — or their ‘perceived’ disabilities, as there is no indication these individuals have HIV. There is only an unlawful fear that they do.”

The school superintendent has refused comment except to say a lawyer was consulted before the decision. The district relies on recommended School Board Association policy that allows schools to prevent attendance of children with communicable diseases. HIV is not considered a communicable diseases. The name and case of Ryan White apparently haven't reached the consciousness of Pea Ridge, Ark., school officials and legal advsors.

The clip at top has coverage from KNWA.

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