The Milton Hershey School, founded by chocolate magnate Milton Hershey to help underprivileged children, faces discrimination charges after it refused to admit a 13-year-old boy who is HIV-positive.
The case is shining a spotlight on new legal perils created when the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) went into effect in 2009.
The private boarding school cited concerns about the health of other students and faculty when it rejected the boy’s application.
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania was considering weighing in on the case when the nonprofit AIDS Law Project filed suit.
The plaintiff’s attorney, Ronda Goldfein, claims the boy controls his condition with medication and requires no special accommodation. She describes him as “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.”
The suit claims the school’s refusal to admit the student violates the ADA and “shows a real lack of understanding of the real threat of HIV.”
Note: The ADAAA, which expanded the ADA, presumes that AIDS and HIV are disabilities. Employers and institutions (including private schools) risk litigation if they refuse to accommodate people who are HIV-positive.