KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) — Local historians want to interview school board members and others about the decision to bar teenager Ryan White from a central Indiana school during the AIDS scare of the 1980s.
The Howard County Historical Society hopes to interview 15 to 20 people for an oral history project. The group wants to talk with school officials, the Kokomo mayor at the time, the White family minister and White's mother Jeanne White-Ginder.
Historical society director Kelly Karickhoff said Dr. Alan Adler, the Howard County Health Officer at the time, has already been interviewed.
"That was the stepping stone for what we decided to do," Karickhoff told the Kokomo Tribune for a Tuesday story.
"We want people to understand the story from that time period," Karickhoff said.
Misconceptions about AIDS and how it was spread were common when White, a hemophiliac who contracted the HIV virus through a blood transfusion, was diagnosed with the disease in the early 1980s. Local school officials barred the 13-year-old boy from Western Middle School near Kokomo in 1984, and the case attracted international headlines as White helped combat the idea that the disease could be spread through casual contact.
The Indiana Department of Education eventually ruled that White could attend school and he attended a high school in Hamilton County near Indianapolis after the family moved. He died in 1990 at age 18.
The Historicial Society received a $2,320 grant from the Howard County Community Foundation to examine the impact the Ryan White story had on the community through oral history interviews.
"It's something that needs to be done," Karickhoff said. "It is a story that had not been collected."
Historians already have been doing research on White for the past year, reviewing books written about him and poring through local newspaper archives. Karickhoff said the Historical Society hopes to work with the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, which has a replica of White's bedroom on display.
Karickhoff said the group has not been determined if a public event will be held in conjunction with the oral history project. She said a round table discussion of the White controversy was a possibility.