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Parents of asthmatic student seek fragrance ban

November 14, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

LEITERSBURG -- The parents of a Smithsburg High School student with asthma are trying to convince Washington County Public Schools officials to ban the use of fragrances systemwide.

Francis and Kelly Murray, whose 14-year-old son, Danial, suffers from severe asthma, took their quest to the Washington County Board of Education earlier this month.

The Murrays said Danial often suffers a severe asthma attack when he smells cologne, perfume or other scented products.

Francis Murray said Danial has to come home from school three or four times a week because of his condition.

"He's missing an hour or two (of school) every other day," Francis Murray said.

Wayne Ridenour, president of the Washington County Board of Education, said the board probably would review the matter during committee meetings next month.

Ridenour said he had never before heard of a situation such as Danial's.

"That's a tough one," he said.

Kelly Murray said Danial's condition was triggered last year when he was in eighth grade. She said that during gym class, another student pulled a practical joke on Danial by dousing his clothes with a scented spray, which caused the youngster to suffer a serious asthma attack when he got dressed.

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Since then, Kelly Murray said, Danial has experienced breathing problems when he comes in contact with scented products.

Danial said his homeroom teacher and classmates have been cooperative by refraining from wearing cologne and perfume, but even the slightest scent in the air can provoke a serious attack.

"I can't stop coughing," Danial said. "I just have a need to cough. Sometimes my throat feels like it's closing."

Danial wears an air purifier recommended by his asthmatologist around his neck. The purifier decreases allergens, pollutants, irritants and bacteria in the air that he breathes.

Danial said he can't go to dances and do other things that children his age enjoy.

On one occasion, Danial said, he had to leave the stage while he was playing the violin during a concert because a girl in his section was wearing perfume.

"It's terrible," he said.

Francis Murray said his son wants to attend Washington County Technical High School when he reaches the 11th grade to study video-game design, but Danial might not be accepted if he misses too much school and falls behind in math.

"We could homeschool him, but we're not math majors," Francis Murray said.

Carol Costello, supervisor of alternative programs and student services for Washington County Public Schools, said the system offers two programs -- Home and Hospital Teaching, and Intermittent Home and Hospital Teaching -- for students who have to miss school because of illness. Costello said the system had 137 cases last school year and has 50 cases so far this year.

The system has $159,000 budgeted to fund both programs in fiscal year 2010.

Home and Hospital Teaching provides a teacher in the home for up to six hours a week if a student misses more than 15 consecutive days of school, Costello said. To qualify, a physician needs to request the teacher on the family's behalf. She said the physician has to make another request if a teacher is still needed after 60 days.

Costello said Intermittent Home and Hospital Teaching is for students who have more chronic illnesses, such as cancer and cystic fibrosis. Children in the intermittent program have to miss two or more days of school because of their condition before a teacher is assigned. As is the case with Home and Hospital Teaching, a physician must request a teacher for the family, but only one request is necessary for the course of the year.

Francis Murray said he was aware of both programs.

"It's only six hours a week versus six hours a day," he said. "(Danial) wouldn't benefit. We don't feel it's an option."

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