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Jeanne White-Ginder: Transcript for “Fight to Go to School”

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But if you knew Ryan he was such a comic. I mean to him the littlest things, when they, he liked to prove ‘em wrong, you know. And I think the fight to go to school, while he initially became famous for, I think it was because he said, “Yeah they think I’m gonna die. They think if they prolong this in the courts long enough that I won’t be around, you know.” But he said, “They better not hold their breath because I’m gonna get to go back to school.”

First of all we fought the school board and the teachers, and the teachers went on T.V. And Ryan loved math, he loved Mr. Burkehalder, ok this Mr. Burkehalder, he loved Mr. Burkehalder. And who did the teachers get to represent them? It was Mr. Burkehalder. And Ryan saw him on the nightly news. He said, “We the teachers vote unanimously to keep Ryan White out of the classroom.”

If you’d seen Ryan’s face, he’s like, “I’m gonna get you.”

There was this … We had trash dumped on our yard, we had a bullet hole shot through our window. But that was the turning point for my daughter. She didn’t want to live there no more. I went to Mr. Vaughan and I said you know it’s getting so ugly, I said I’m really getting kind of scared. I said, there’s so many crazy people out there now. And I said, I don’t who to trust and who not to trust. And he said, well, “Let me talk to Ryan.” And Ryan got on the phone. [Mr. Vaugn] said, “Ryan, do you really want to go to school that bad?” He said, “cause it’s rough.” [Ryan said], “I want to go back to school.”

I can remember Mr. Vaughan thinking it would just take on court hearing, you know, we’d have all these medical experts. We had the CDC on our side, and all these medical professionals and all these famous infectious disease doctors. And that we would have them in the courtroom and they would testify. But what happened was the parents group and the school board and everybody, they had doctors testifying that they wouldn’t let their kids go to school with Ryan and they wouldn’t treat Ryan if he’d been a patient of theirs. And its like, well yeah, but you’re not infectious disease doctors. When you’ve seen the level of education that the regular doctor had in a community, they didn’t know anything about AIDS. They wanted to believe that somehow, someway, you’ve done something bad, or wrong or you wouldn’t have got this disease. And we definitely felt that.

They thought that we were getting all these thousands of dollars from People Magazine for being on the cover—Ryan was on the cover of People. And I thought you know if we were getting all, any kind of money at all we’d be out of this town a lot faster than what we were. Ryan won the right to go back to school and then we did, we had three movie companies that wanted to do a movie about Ryan’s life. One of the most fortunate things about those is we got to pick, which one we wanted to do the movie. And we did get paid for the movie, and with the up front movie money that’s how we moved out of Kokomo.