The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida ruled that the Desoto County School District could not prohibit three brothers from attending public school because of their HIV-positive status. The school district had originally concluded that the brothers posed a threat to others and mandated that they receive “homebound” instruction instead of attending school. In response, the family sought an injunction against the school district to prevent the school from excluding their children. In order to grant a preliminary injunction, the court had to consider the following: (1) likelihood of success on the merits; (2) irreparable harm; (3) the balance of harms tips in the plaintiff’s favor; and (4) the protection of public interests. The court found that the family would succeed on the merits because the district was violating the children’s constitutional and civil rights, as well as the federal Rehabilitation Act by denying them access to the public school. In every case previously decided on the issue, the courts had ruled in favor of the students and directed that they be returned to the classroom. The children’s psychologist testified that they were developing anxiety, social deficiencies, and educational deficiencies as a result of their exclusion from the classroom and the court found that this constituted irreparable harm. The court also found that the balance of hardships and the public interest weighed in favor of allowing the children to return to the school because HIV cannot be transmitted through casual contact and the district has a duty to provide adequate, non-discriminatory education to all children.
Although the court ruled that the children must be allowed to return to school, it ordered that the children and their family take utmost care to comply with all health guidelines and safety precautions to reduce the possible risk of HIV transmission. It mandated elevated hygiene, sex education for the children, and regular medical testing of the children as well as the entire family. The boys also were prohibited from engaging in contact sports or any activity that puts them at risk for bleeding. Furthermore, the court ordered that the DeSoto County School Board provide educational programs to all parents to educate them regarding the realities of HIV and the risks of transmission
For a copy of this opinion, send an e-mail to email@example.com and include “resource request” in the subject line.