An 11-year-old Palo Alto boy is home from school pending an Oct. 25 court hearing on whether his genetic condition poses a risk to other students at Jordan Middle School who have cystic fibrosis.
The dispute appears to reflect conflicting judgments about the risk of "cross-infection" among students who have cystic fibrosis or are at genetic risk for the disease.
Saying they had consulted with medical experts and were acting on concerns about student safety, school officials last week -- eight weeks into the school year -- asked the family of Colman Chadam to transfer the boy to Terman Middle School.
They believe his condition creates a risk of dangerous "cross-infection" of other Jordan students who have cystic fibrosis.
Insisting that their son does not have cystic fibrosis, just a genetic condition that's being monitored, Colman's parents went to court Friday to try to stop the transfer.
Colman's mother, Jennifer Chadam, told the San Francisco Chronicle Colman never has had a clinical diagnosis of cystic fibrosis. She had disclosed the genetic condition on a school health form required at the start of the school year.
"They (the school district) made the decision without seeing one medical record on my son," Chadam told the Chronicle.
Jennifer Chadam said she would move Colman if she felt his condition were a risk to fellow students who have cystic fibrosis. Apparently there are such students, who may be siblings, at Jordan but not at Terman.
Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening disease that causes sticky mucus to build up in the lungs, digestive tract and other areas.
Most children with cystic fibrosis are diagnosed by age 2, but a small number are not diagnosed until age 18 or older, usually with a milder form of the disease, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine website.
The Chadams could not be reached for comment and court records in the case have been sealed.
Their lawyer, Stephen Jaffe, said today the family is awaiting next week's hearing.
School officials said they acted on advice from Stanford University medical experts and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. There is a risk of cross infection among people with cystic fibrosis and non-siblings are advised to stay separated from one another.
"There are two ways you can go," Associate Superintendent Charles Young said.
"You can put protocols in place and try to follow them as best you can. Absolutely that's an option, but the reality of a middle-school campus, where kids are between 12 and 14, is we have a cafeteria, restrooms, locker rooms, a library, play equipment.
"It's difficult or almost impossible to maintain a specified separation and sanitation protocols at all times.
"We felt we had the ideal option available to us to keep these youngsters safe and healthy, which is, 'Let's have them attend separate middle schools.'"
Young said the student has the immediate option of going to Terman, "but they're waiting on that option."
In the meantime, pending next week's hearing, "We have tutors available and will be able to provide classwork just as we do for any student who's not able to attend school for a period of time."
"The district feels bad about creating this level of upset, but our motivation was to protect these guys and we relied on the opinion of the medical community and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to help guide that decision," Young said.