Policy & Politics
Bill Would Let Wisconsin Educators Ask Students to Take HIV Test
March 18, 2004
Gov. Jim Doyle is considering a bill that would allow Wisconsin educators to request that a student take an HIV test if they think they were exposed to the virus. The bill by Sen. Carol Roessler (R-Oshkosh) has already passed through the Legislature; it would let educators request testing only in cases where an educator was significantly exposed to a student's blood. The bill would add educators to a list of people -- including health care, emergency medical and corrections workers -- currently allowed to make such a request. Doyle has not decided whether to sign it.Adapted from:
Roessler was prompted to sponsor the bill after hearing that teacher Cheryl Hartman was unable to request the testing of a student who broke a window and spattered blood in her eye. "I had no right to know what I had been contaminated with," said Hartman, who eventually tested negative. Educators say the bill is a necessary precaution for teachers who find themselves in violent or emergency situations.
The measure would also include other school employees, such as janitors and coaches. There is concern that school workers could use the right to demand testing as a crutch for lax protective measures and medical advice, said Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin.
The bill requires that teachers must have initially used precautions to prevent exposure. A doctor would certify that exposure had occurred. Educators themselves would also have to submit to an HIV test.
Stan Johnson, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, dismisses the notion that educators would abuse the right because they would have difficulty meeting those standards. Health experts tell people not to rely on another person's test result to learn their own HIV status, said Michael Gifford, vice president and chief operating officer of the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin.
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