Health

Lawsuit says Ind. teen with HIV bullied at school

HIV-Positive Student Was Bullied at School, Lawsuit Alleges

November 24, 2008 04:15 PM
by Rachel Balik
The parents of a 14-year-old HIV-positive girl in Indiana say she was harassed because of her status; they have filed a lawsuit.

Parents of HIV-Positive Girl Sue Over Bullying

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A student at Westlane Middle School in Indiana endured such bad bullying after confessing to a friend that she was HIV-positive that she dropped out of school and opted for homeschooling. Her parents have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the girl endured name-calling and harassment, and that the school did little to protect her.

According to the lawsuit, the girl’s soccer coach told her teammates to use her HIV status as a way to scare opposing teams. The school has reprimanded individual students, and the superintendent told the Associated Press that it was implementing all the policies that were in place since the case of Ryan White. White was a student with AIDS who sued in 1985 for the right to attend school.

Background: Ryan White fights to change policy

More than 20 years ago, Ryan White, also from Indiana, fought a groundbreaking battle for his right to attend school after being diagnosed with AIDS. White was denied the right to attend school and fought a court battle to gain the right to return. Even after he was able to re-enter school, he was treated so badly by fellow students that his family decided to move to another community.

Although White suffered greatly, he took advantage of his situation in order to increase awareness in the media, spawning numerous efforts to improve the policy for coping with HIV/AIDS patients in schools.

Related Link: Possible HIV exposure at a St. Louis school

In October, a St. Louis school made the decision to provide HIV testing to its entire student body after a person possibly affiliated with the school was found to have the virus. The person revealed that 50 of the school’s students might have been infected. As a result, the school set up a testing center so that all 1,300 students could obtain information about the virus or test for HIV. Though the school and some students worried about possible stigma, many students said they would take the test to be safe.

Reference: Handling AIDS in schools

The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) published a paper in 2001 entitled, “Someone at School has AIDS.” In it, the author outlined a number of practical guidelines for ensuring that students with AIDS and HIV could have positive and safe experiences in school.

The United Federation of Teachers offers guidelines and information for teachers who work with students who have HIV/AIDS. The article addresses concerns about possible risks and how to maximize safety.
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