An 11-year-old California boy has reportedly been asked to leave school because he carries a cystic fibrosis gene and may pose a health risk to other students at the school with the disease.
CBS San Francisco reports however that the boy, Colman Chadam, does not have the incurable respiratory disease that is not contagious, but is only a carrier of genetic mutations. The district wants Colman to transfer to a nearby school district.
People with cystic fibrosis can carry bacteria that are potentially dangerous to others with the condition. Colman's parents noted on a form the boy had the gene, then nearly two months into the school year, officials at Jordan Middle School in Palo Alto, Calif., told the family that Colman would need to transfer because other students at Jordan suffer from the disease.
"Honestly, if I felt Colman was a risk to others, I would move him," the boy's mother Jennifer told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I don't want anyone to get sick."
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease of the lungs and digestive system that affects about 30,000 U.S. children and adults, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. It is caused by a defective gene and its resulting proteins producing unusually thick mucus that may clog the lungs leading to dangerous infections or obstruct the pancreas, preventing the body from breaking down and absorbing nutrients.
Fear of spreading those infections to other students with the disease was what prompted the school board's actions. The Chronicle notes non-siblings with the disease are advised to stay at least three to six feet away from each other.
"Based on the advice of medical experts, this is the zero risk option, and most certainly helps our District deliver on its commitment to provide safe learning environments," Palo Alto associate superintendent Charles Young, said in a statement to ABC News.
But Colman's parents argue their child has been cleared by doctors as not having the disease and thus not posing a risk to others.
Millions of Americans carry a defective cystic fibrosis gene, according to the National Institutes of Health, but don't show any symptoms because a person must inherit a defective gene from each parent to develop the disease. The NIH estimates 1 in 29 Caucasian Americans possess the gene.
Laurie Fink, a spokeswoman for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation told Life's Little Mysteries that is it is possible for someone to carry two defective genes without showing signs of the condition.
"Someone can have two defective CF genes and not be diagnosed with cystic fibrosis for a variety of reasons, including having nondisease-causing genes or genes that won't cause symptoms until later in life," she said.
The Chadams have taken the case to court and a judge will hold a hearing on his possible return to Jordan, according to CBS San Francisco.