1976 – Sophomore Jack Foster attended a Friday night pep rally for the high school football team. As he sat up by the bonfire, he began to melt. The ensuing panic ended the rally as students freaked out, ran away, or frantically tried to scoop up the liquefying boy. Paramedics managed to scrape him onto a plastic tarp. On the way to the hospital, Jack re-congealed, apparently unharmed. The hospital was unable to explain the phenomenon, but were able to repeat it by applying dry heat. Finally, they sent him home, advising him to stay away from radiators and direct sunlight.
The next day the news had picked up the story of the Melting Boy. Over the weekend, the community worked itself up over the issue. By Monday the school had received a petition to keep Jack out of class. The school told the Fosters to keep him home until his ‘condition’ could be ‘cured’.
The Fosters quickly found that while their insurance covered the hospital visit, it didn’t cover treatment for the non-life-threatening and unclassifiable condition. By the time they ran out of their own money, all they established was that nobody could pin down a cause, but as long as he was kept away from extreme heat, he could control the melting and that he was neither toxic nor contagious.
Despite this finding, the school continued to refuse to allow Jack to attend classes. With the last of their money, the Fosters tried to find a lawyer. The lawyer tracked down and brought together two other families.
It turned out that Missy Carmichael’s decision sudden decision to “go stay with her aunt in New York” was not, as everyone had assumed, a cover for an unplanned pregnancy after all. Missy’s skin and hair had turned blue, which she’d been able to conceal with dye and makeup until she’d also grown horns and a tail. The Carmichaels had pulled her out of school and were keeping her hidden for fear of exactly the sort of media assault Jack was facing.
David Goldstein had been at summer camp when he discovered he could see and hear through the eyes and ears of any one person within several yards. He’d been sent home with a ‘nervous condition’. The Goldsteins had been working with him to control the ability and had chosen to homeschool him to be sure that he would not be tempted to use his ability to cheat on exams.
The Fosters, Carmichaels and Goldsteins opened a lawsuit against the local school board to have their children admitted back into regular classes. They were joined by two other famiies once the suit was announced. The case became a media circus, the issues debated on national television. Was it safe to allow ‘special abilities’ students to mainstream with regular kids – for either the special students or the regular ones? Did the state have the right to bar any child of tax-paying citizens from a public education who were not in violation of the behavioral code?
Ultimately, after several appeals, the courts ruled that, as long a child does not pose a health hazard to other students, the public school system must accept the child, subject, of course, to the same academic and disciplinary restrictions applied to any other student.