Hershey School Will Now Accept HIV-Positive Students

A Delaware County teen who has been HIV-positive since birth, will now be admitted to the Milton Hershey School after the school got some guidance from the U.S. Justice Department

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    NBC10 Philadelphia
    December, 2011: In an exclusive interview, the student who was denied access to the school -- an honors student from Delaware County -- spoke with NBC10, saying he felt his treatment by the school was unfair.

    The Milton Hershey School says it's changed its policy to now treat HIV-positive applicants the same as all others. And it is offering admission to a Philadelphia-area teen who the school previously rejected.

    The 13-year-old honors student from Delaware County spoke exclusively to NBC10's Denise Nakano in December of 2011 after he was told he couldn't attend the school.

    Admission Denied for Student With HIV

    [PHI] Admission Denied for Student With HIV
    The Milton Hershey School is known around the world for offering a free education to children from lower income families. Now, it's the target of a federal lawsuit, after denying enrollment to a child who is infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

    "I feel that no other teenager should go through this, being denied just because they have HIV," he said.

    At that point in time, the school told NBC10:

    "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."

    The school educates low-income and socially disadvantaged students, and is financed by a trust that holds the controlling interest in The Hershey Co.

    "If you have a school that's open to the public, then it's open to the public," said the family's attorney, Ronda Goldfein. "You don't simply say, we don't like you, we don't like your diagnosis, you can't come here."

    The student's family sued the school, claiming discrimination.

    Now, with recent guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice, the school has changed its policy. School president Anthony Colistra issued a statement Monday that defended its previous decisions regarding the teenager, and explains the new policy. The school also is development training for its employees and students on HIV-related issues.

    Colistra says he wrote the teenager last month to apologize and offer him enrollment this fall.

    The teen at the center of this controversy has lived with HIV his entire life, but told NBC10's Denise Nakano that he doesn't let it define him. He excels in school, is active in sports and is learning to speak two foreign languages.