ARCADIA, Fla. — Three hemophiliac brothers carrying the AIDS virus returned to their police-guarded elementary school today despite death threats and a boycott, but nearly half the school's students stayed away from class.
"The boys are excited to be back in school. They're under enormous pressure," said Bill Earl, an attorney for the family, who accompanied the brothers to Memorial Elementary School.
Ten-year-old Ricky, 9-year-old Robert and 8-year-old Randy Ray had been barred from school since last fall after testing positive for acquired immune deficiency syndrome, meaning that they had been exposed to the deadly virus.
Doctors believe the brothers, all hemophiliacs, were exposed through plasma-based medication they take to clot their blood. They do not have symptoms related to the disease.
The family arrived 45 minutes early in two cars for classes starting at 8 a.m., and one of the boys ran into school. Parents Louise and Clifford Ray, Earl and Principal Donald Knoche escorted the boys to their classrooms.
Plainclothes DeSoto County sheriff's deputies patrolled the corridors and grounds, but there were no demonstrations or other incidents.
A parents group, Citizens Against AIDS in Schools, had called for a weeklong boycott in this central Florida city of 10,000 after an Aug. 5 federal court order that the boys be allowed to return to school.
School officials were expecting a first day enrollment of 632 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, but actual attendance was only 337.
U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich earlier this month ordered tests to see if the boys' parents or their 6-year-old sister, Candy, tested positive for AIDS exposure. The tests came back negative.