Bill Honig, state superintendent of schools, said in Orange County Wednesday night that he is seeking guidelines for all school districts about whether to admit students with AIDS.
He said school districts should decide on a case-by-case basis, and a key determinant would be whether the student posed any threat to others. For instance, Honig said, it would be dangerous to admit preschool children with acquired immune deficiency syndrome because very young children sometimes bite.
AIDS, an incurable illness, is caused by a virus that medical researchers say is spread by the exchange of bodily fluids. Most victims have been male homosexuals, people who have used contaminated needles and those, including hemophiliacs, who have had transfusions of tainted blood.
Some babies have been born with AIDS contracted through their mothers, and some children have contracted the disease through blood transfusions. Older students, such as those in high school, could contract the malady if they were promiscuous homosexuals, health officials have said.
Honig was in Orange County to address the Orange County School Boards Assn. at the Sheraton Hotel-Newport Beach. He discussed the AIDS "basic guidelines" matter at a press briefing before his speech.
Honig acknowledged that he was unhappy with an initial response he had received last week from the state Department of Health Services about proposed guidelines for school districts. The department had been too vague, he said, and he had asked for more specific advice to forward to school districts.
"Where's the standard? What do you look for?" Honig asked. "You've got to have medical standards or medical people telling you what this means in a classroom, such as 'look out for this or that.' I think we'll be getting some clarification from them (the state health department).
"Secondly, you need some procedures; who should be involved. I think a public health specialist should be involved (in each case) . . . . Since there are very limited cases now, we can make that determination on a case-by-case basis, with some expert help."
No Orange County school district has a formal policy about what to do if students contract AIDS. The Los Angeles Unified School District trustees on Monday night voted to let physicians decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether children with AIDS should be permitted to attend class. The Los Angeles policy requires a school physician and the physician of a child with AIDS to confer before the child can be admitted to school.
Honig said he knew of no students with AIDS anywhere in the state, except for a student in Carmel who ultimately decided not to enroll in school.
Although California doesn't have the problem that has occurred in New York and other cities where admission of AIDS students has caused public controversies, Honig said, he wants the state to be prepared.
"What we're trying to do is say, 'Here is a uniform way of dealing with this,' so every community doesn't have to go through a tumultuous exercise. There should be a standard way of dealing with it, just as there are with other health areas."