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On Thursday, the Milton Hershey School agreed to pay a 14-year-old Philadelphia boy and his mother $700,000 to settle their federal lawsuit against the Derry Twp.-based boarding school, which had initially refused him enrollment because he’s HIV-positive.

“I thought we had moved beyond this with the amount of education people have received regarding HIV and AIDS and how it’s contracted and transmitted to others,”

 

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Students who have the virus that causes AIDS are now welcome at the Milton Hershey School.

                                 Milton Hershey School

The Pennsylvania school said Monday that it has reversed its rejection of an HIV-positive teen, who last year filed a discrimination lawsuit.

The case received national attention and prompted protests against the school of about 1,850 students from economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds.

Monday, Anthony Colistra, the president of the school, publicly apologized to the teen, whose name hasn’t been revealed but who was called Abraham Smith in the lawsuit.

The student, who lives in the Philadelphia area, was 13 when he was denied admission last year.     “I can’t believe this happened in the first place … I can’t believe it took them this long to change their minds,” said Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of the AIDS Institute in Washington, D.C.

A Milton Hershey School spokeswoman yesterday said the school had no comment on questions such as whether it expects the suit to be dropped and whether it expects to pay damages.

The school justified the admission refusal by stating that, because of the possibility students might have sex, the HIV-positive student posed a health threat to other students. Because of that, the refusal didn’t violate the Americans With Disabilities Act, the school said.

Monday, the school said it has come to a different view.     “Although we believed that our decisions regarding Abraham Smith’s application were appropriate, we acknowledge that the application of federal law to our unique residential setting was a novel and difficult issue. The U.S. Department of Justice recently advised us that it disagrees with how we evaluated the risks and applied the law. We have decided to accept this guidance,”

The school further pledged a broad effort to accommodate students affected by HIV.     “Our new process is already in effect. We are issuing a new Equal Opportunity Policy clearly stating that the school treats applicants with HIV no differently than any other applicants. We are also developing and providing mandatory training for staff and students on HIV issues and expanding our current training on Universal Precautions,” the statement said.

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My comment;  It’s hard to believe that stuff like this is still happening today.  We think we’re over the stigmas of the 1980’s and they just keep reappearing.   We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go.

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