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U.S. News

Indiana: Teen With HIV Bullied at School Files Lawsuit

December 9, 2008

On Nov. 18, the mother of an HIV-positive student filed a lawsuit against Washington Township Schools, alleging that disease-related bullying forced her child to leave Westlane Middle School. The suit claims district officials did nothing to stop the harassment, violating the Americans With Disabilities Act.

According to the lawsuit, the harassment began soon after the child self-disclosed her HIV status to a friend, and news of her infection spread school-wide. The mother met school counselors in April 2007 and three more times later that year to demand that her daughter's tormentors be suspended, the suit claims. The district warned the students but did not remove them from class, according to the suit. The mother again met administrators on Sept. 22, 2008, after a soccer coach allegedly asked the child whether she had AIDS.

The suit says the bullying got so intense that the girl suffered seizures and had to be withdrawn from the district. She is now being home-schooled.

The mother and daughter declined to be interviewed through their attorney, Steven Sams. He said proceeding with the lawsuit would be contingent on details still needing to be worked out with the district.

The district superintendent, James Mervilde, said he could not comment on pending litigation. However, the district has policies about bullying and cleaning protocols for potentially infectious bodily fluids, Mervilde said. The district is also governed by state student-confidentiality laws, said Avon Waters, a spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Education.

Back to other news for December 2008

Adapted from:
Indianapolis Star
11.21.2008; Gretchen Becker

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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