Disability Rights & Public Health
6:25 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

DHS Will Give HIV Test Results To School District, Angering Advocates

The Department of Human Services will continue with plans to send HIV test results of three students to the Pea Ridge School District, despite protests from the Disability Rights Center of Arkansas. The Center plans to file a lawsuit against DHS for what they say is a violation of federal law and the privacy of the three students.

As director of the Disability Rights Center of Arkansas, Tom Masseau says if a student is HIV positive, that shouldn't change how the school district should treat him or her. He says this case will have wider implications.

“At what point is the state going to require all students throughout the state—whether [they] have a disability or not—to be tested?. Because you could have fights break out at school you could have somebody get scratched or fall on the playground and there could be blood. Currently, the schools use universal precautions for these types of injuries,” he says.

Masseau questions why the Pea Ridge District does not consider those universal precautions to be sufficient in this instance.

“For the state to release the results to the school is not going to provide any additional precautionary measures to the school. You're releasing medical information to those individuals who don't need it. Whether or not someone is HIV positive is not going to change the way you interact nor provide services or support to the individuals,” he says.

The three students are all foster children. In a statement acquired by the Arkansas Times Wednesday, the Department of Human Services said they are required by state law to contribute “all known information” about the health and safety of children who are in state custody to those students' school districts.

The Pea Ridge School District readmitted the three students, all siblings, to school after removing them earlier this week, pending the test results.

The school district said in a statement on Monday that it requested the information because of “certain actions and behaviors that place students and staff at risk.”