Exclusive: Mom outraged after New Jersey teacher asks 6th graders if they have HIV

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Thursday, May 10, 2018
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Reporter Anthony Johnson has more on the fallout at Hackensack Middle School.

HACKENSACK, New Jersey (WABC) -- An outraged parent is speaking exclusively to Eyewitness News after students at a middle school in New Jersey were asked by a teacher if they had HIV prior to going on an overnight camping trip.

It happened at Hackensack Middle School, where sixth graders are preparing for a four-day trip into the woods for some outdoor fun, education and team building. But the comment allegedly made by a teacher in class has made some parents uncomfortable.

"A teacher had mentioned in the classroom, where if you had HIV positive, you are not allowed to come on the trip, which is a sixth-grade camp trip," mom Janete Mendes said.

Mendes was then forced to deal with some difficult topics at home, when her 12-year-old son asked about the disease.

"I felt defensive about it, and he didn't know what was HIV," She said. "Where he asked me, 'What is HIV? How do you catch HIV.'"

There is the suggestion that children may have misunderstood the comment, but the school district is looking into the matter.

The superintendent issued a statement, saying "I cannot discuss personnel matters, as they are confidential. We are looking into the matter further."

But Mendes said the incident has shaken classmates, and many want to see the teacher penalized.

"I spoke to other parents, and they were shocked as well," Mendes said. "They say that he should be fired for that, which I agree. That's something that you don't expose. If somebody in there has that, you really aren't supposed to say anything about it, because that's confidential."

UPDATE: The school district has issued a statement characterizing the incident as a misunderstanding. Acting Hackensack Superintendent Rosemary Marks said the teacher in question actually said "HIB" in reference to the state policy governing bullying in schools. HIB stands for "Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying," and anyone who had been written up under the policy would not be allowed to go on the trip. The family, however, stands by its story.


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