The Milton Hershey School has reached a settlement for more than $700,000 in a federal lawsuit after the school denied admission to a student because he had HIV. The student, identified by the pseudonym Abraham Smith, and his mother filed suit, claiming that the Hershey, Pa., school's refusal to consider Smith constituted a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Smith, now a 14-year-old ninth-grader, was denied admission last year to the eighth-grade class at the Milton Hershey School, founded by the chocolate magnate and his wife. School administrators said the honor roll student, who has HIV, presented a "direct threat" to the health and safety of other students, according to a press release announcing the settlement, which also requires the school to conduct HIV training for its staff and students.
"Children should not be denied educational opportunities simply because they have HIV," said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department, in a press release. "This settlement sends a clear message that unlawful discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS will not be tolerated."
The settlement concludes a federal HIV discrimination lawsuit brought against the school by the nonprofit AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania.
"This case renewed a nationwide discussion about whether people with HIV represent a risk to others in casual settings," said Ronda B. Goldfein, executive director of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania. "The question has once again been definitively answered: They do not."
The AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania reports that the Smith and his mother have decided not to enroll Smith at the Hershey school but will instead use the settlement to cover other educational expenses.