Hershey School Pays $700,000 to HIV Teen

The school wouldn't allow the Philadelphia boy to attend because he was HIV-positive

By Karen Araiza
|  Friday, Oct 12, 2012  |  Updated 8:48 AM EDT
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Admission Denied for Student With HIV

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.

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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.
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Denying a Delaware County teen who is HIV-positive admission to their school, ended up costing the Milton Hershey School $700,000.

That's how much the school will pay the boy and his mother to settle a discrimination suit.

The teen, who is an honors student, applied to the school in April 2011. The Hershey School educates low-income and socially disadvantaged students. It's financed by a trust that holds the controlling interest in The Hershey Company.

After telling the boy he couldn't enroll, the school explained to 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 boy and his mother talked exclusively to NBC10's Denise Nakano after he was turned away.

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

After the suit was filed, the U.S. Justice Department weighed in with some guidance and the school changed its policy saying it would begin treating HIV-positive applicants the same as other applicants.

The principal called the teenager to apologize and said he was welcome to attend school this fall. The family decided it was no longer in the teen's best interest to attend.

The settlement is not an admission of liability by the school. In addition to paying the family $700,000, as part of the agreement, the school has to also pay $15,000 in civil penalties assessed by the U.S. Justice Department. The school must keep a statement about the settlement on its website for at least a year and come up with a new non-discrimination and equal opportunity policy. Teachers and staffers will go through training that focuses on HIV-related discrimination and students will be educated about the importance of treating people with disabilities in a respectful and courteous manner.

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