The Milton Hershey School, a free, private school for disadvantaged students in the state of Pennsylvania that was founded by the Hershey chocolate company, said it could not admit children with infectious diseases.
“In order to protect our children in this unique environment, we cannot accommodate the needs of students with chronic communicable diseases that pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others,” said Connie McNamara, a spokesman for the school.
“The reason is simple. We are serving children, and no child can be assumed to always make responsible decisions that protect the well being of others.”
About 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV, which causes AIDS. The boy controls his HIV through a regimen of medication that does not impact his school schedule, according to the lawsuit.
The school said it planned to ask a federal judge to weigh-in on their decision, but attorneys for the boy and his mother “took the adversarial action of filing a lawsuit,” McNamara said.
The child’s attorneys at the non-profit AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania sought to compare the school’s actions to the Ryan White case, in which an HIV-positive boy in the state of Indiana was expelled from school in the 1980s because of the infection. That case led to the Ryan White Care Act of 1990.
Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of a real or perceived disability, including having HIV, according to the National Association of State Boards of Education.
White, who became infected after a hemophilia treatment and died of AIDS in 1990, became a national spokesman for AIDS research and public education.
“Like Ryan White, this young man is a motivated, intelligent kid who poses no health risk to other students, but is being denied an educational opportunity because of ignorance and fear about HIV and AIDS,” said AIDS Law Project Executive Director Ronda B. Goldfein, who is representing the boy and his mother in the lawsuit.
On Thursday, which was World AIDS Day, President Barack Obama announced new funding to battle AIDS and challenged other nations to boost their commitments to fund treatment. – Reuters