11/03/09 — School board passes policy on communicable diseases

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School board passes policy on communicable diseases

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 3, 2009 12:57 PM

For the second time in less than six months, the school board has passed a policy protecting students with HIV status.

And again, board member John P. Grantham and Eddie Radford were the dissenting votes.

In May, school board policy No. 6145 -- HIV/AIDS policy -- passed 5-2.

Monday night, it was policy No. 4230B -- communicable diseases -- passed 4-2. Board member Dave Thomas was absent from the meeting.

And while the policy applies to all communicable diseases, the ones specifically referenced throughout the four-page section were HIV and AIDS.

Grantham was the most vocal on the issue, raising the same concerns as he had at previous meetings -- the policy goes too far in protecting those with HIV, not far enough to protect anyone else.

"This policy is communicable disease. I realize it's a state requirement in the way it's worded," he said. "I would really like our attorney to look at it."

Grantham took exception with the fact that the policy prohibits making the HIV status public. At the same time, he noted, more is done to protect that student's rights and health than the rights of another student with a different ailment.

"If you have a student in school who has AIDS, which is a deadly disease, you can't tell anybody you have it at school," he said. "(But) if you have a student who has measles or chicken pox or influenza, you have to tell the student who has AIDS. You have to tell the student with AIDS who has measles, but you don't have to tell that the student has AIDS.

"The reason you tell the student who has AIDS that someone has chicken pox is because they don't have the immunity."

Sports situations provide another potential for risk, Grantham said, particularly in areas like wrestling or football where there might be greater opportunity for bodily contact or bloodborne situations.

The public needs to be aware of the policy, he maintained.

"It's too late if you come in contact. You can't go to the office or to wash your hands. It's too late," he said. "It's just not right."

Grantham said his preference would be for the public to speak out, or better yet, for the government to take a deeper look into the policy's ramifications.

"It's dangerous. To help a very few people, you put a lot of people at risk," he said. "So I won't be voting for it."

Board Chairman George Moye said the policy is "not totally new" and was handed down by the state School Board Association.

"There's been a policy on the books for some time," he said. "Should this be voted down tonight, we still have a policy."

Radford aligned with Grantham on the issue.

"I feel like if a kid is in close contact, I guess I'm thinking more about the sports arena than anything else," he said. "That would bring some concern to me."

He said he was looking at the bigger picture, which ideally would provide for the safety of all students.

"It's not a vote against HIV, but that all diseases, all kids are protected against diseases," he said.