Martinez v. School Board of Hillsborough County, 711 F. Supp. 1066 (M.D. Fla. 1989)

Court and Agency Decisions and Orders (including case law)

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida ruled that a developmentally disabled child with AIDS could not be excluded from a Trainable Mentally Handicapped (TMH) classroom if she posed no serious risk of HIV transmission. The court had originally ruled that the school could restrict the child’s contact with other children, but the case was re-considered on remand after review by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (861 F.2d 1502 (11th Cir. 1988)). At the time of the original trial, the child was not toilet trained and constantly sucked her fingers, which led the court to conclude that her bodily secretions could put the other children in the classroom at risk of HIV transmission. On remand, the court found that under the Education for Handicapped Children Act (EHCA), the most appropriate placement for the child would be in the TMH along with other children. It also found that the risk of transmission of HIV from saliva and urine was not significant enough to counterbalance the benefit and rights of the child inherent in attending school with other children.

Following precedent established in Ray v. School District of Desoto County, 666 F. Supp. 1524 (M.D. Fla. 1987), the court ordered that the child comply with strict personal hygiene requirements as a condition of her interacting with other children. It also required the school board to provide educational programs to the school’s parent population, and to the students as far as practicable, to educate them about the realities of AIDS and the proper procedures to deal with the situation and minimize risk of transmission.

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