The president of the Milton Hershey School has apologized to a student denied admission because he has HIV, and MHS now welcomes his attendance beginning this fall. President Anthony Colistra said he extended the apology and offer in a July 12 letter to the student and his mother.
Originally, the Hershey, Pa.-based school argued the risk of sexual activity in its residential setting, where students live together in groups of 10-12, would make an HIV-positive teen there a "threat." The AIDS Law Project in November filed suit on behalf of the boy in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, citing the Americans with Disabilities Act, which covers people with HIV.
Now age 14, the student is attending public school and is considering the MHS offer among his options, said Ronda Goldfein, his attorney.
"They said he was a threat to everybody. ... He has to do a lot of thinking about that," Goldfein said. "We told them what the law was and they ignored it," she said, adding that they are pressing ahead with the case.
Colistra said MHS will no longer deny admission to qualified students who have HIV, and it is issuing an equal opportunity policy toward that end. MHS also is planning to train students and staff on HIV issues, he said.
The "application of federal law to our unique residential setting was a novel and difficult case," said Colistra, who denied MHS did anything wrong in rejecting the boy. However, the U.S. Department of Justice advised MHS that it "disagrees with how we evaluated the risks and applied the law," he said.