Colman Chadman, 11 years old, seemed to fit right into his new school, Palo Alto's Jordan Middle School. But seven weeks into the school year, the school provided Chadman and his family for a shock when they asked the family to transfer to another middle school three miles away.
The school district told the family that the decision was made because Chadman carries the gene for cystic fibrosis, a non-infectious but life-threatening lung disorder that affects 30,000 children in the United States. But Chadman's physician says that he does not actually have the disease and that he does not pose a threat to the general population or to other children with cystic fibrosis.
The family informed the school of his genetic status in his registration papers.
The school said that they made the decision out of an abundance of caution because sibling students, who attend the school, have the condition. While the disease is not infectious to the general population, people with the disease can contain bacteria in their lungs that is deadly to other children with the condition. Non-related people with the disease are recommended to maintain a minimum of 3 to 6 feet away from one another.
In a statement released to Patch, Charles F. Young, the Associate Superintendent of the school district said, "The harsh reality of a busy middle school campus, where students ranging in ages from 12 to 15 share a cafeteria, restrooms, the gym and locker room, a library and other settings, is that it might be virtually impossible to maintain a specified separation and sanitation protocols at all times. This reality is what made us gravitate to the separate campus option. CF is a life-threatening condition, and in this context, based on the information provided to us at the time by all parties, we believed that zero risk was the best course of action. We hoped that these families would agree."
The Chadman family says that they would certainly remove their son from the school if they thought that he was a risk to others, but his medical records seem to prove that he is not. He has never had the lung problems characteristic to cystic fibrosis, has never required treatment, and has tested negative on the sweat test, the definitive diagnostic test of the disease. "For some reason, the school district wants to diagnose my son before the doctors know how," Jennifer Chadam said to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Researchers have found that 1 in 25 children are carriers for the disease and that there are 2,000 different genetic variations. Doctors not yet know whether the gene means that children are simply a carrier of the disease or whether that means that they have it.
Currently, the family is trying to block the move. Though Colman is studying independently at home, a judge has scheduled a hearing on the matter next week, on October 25.