A central Pennsylvania boarding school is standing by its decision to deny admission to a Delaware County middle school student because he has HIV.
The 13-year-old boy is suing the Milton Hershey School, claiming the free residential school for low-income students broke anti-discrimination laws.
The boy’s lawyer, Ronda Goldfein of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, said legal precedent makes it clear that keeping HIV-positive kids out of public and private day schools is illegal.
“We were stunned when we heard the defense is that somehow this 13-year-old boy presents such a risk to this entire school that they’re willing to break the law to keep him out,” Goldfein said.
She said she is not aware of a specific case that addresses residential settings, but argues there is nothing unique about those settings that require a different analysis of the law.
The school disagrees. In a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade boarding school, a representative said, it would be difficult to assure that other students would not get HIV through blood-to-blood contact or sexual activity.
“Children cannot be assumed to always act in the best and most responsible way as they grow up,” said school spokeswoman Connie McNamara. “We just have to provide the proper protection for the health and safety of the students already on campus, and we believe we have made the right decision under the law.”
McNamara said the school planned to file a request in federal court asking it to review the decision to deny enrollment, but was pre-empted by the lawsuit.