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Columnists and Bloggers Weigh in on a 13-Year Old HIV-Positive Student Being Denied Admission to a Pennsylvania Boarding School

December 12, 2011

Officials from the Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Penn., have found themselves at the center of serious controversy after denying admission to a 13-year old honor roll student because he is HIV positive. School officials claim that they have serious "health concerns" and fear for the safety of other students at the boarding school -- despite long-established evidence that HIV is not spread through casual contact such as hugging and kissing, and is usually transmitted in the U.S. through unprotected sex or sharing needles with someone who is HIV positive, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Connie McNamara, a spokesman for Milton Hershey, told Reuters that this situation is special because being a boarding school means having children live there "24 hours a day, 7 days a week":

"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 reason is simple. We are serving children, and no child can be assumed to always make responsible decisions that protect the well being of others."

The child's family has retained legal counsel and is suing the school. In a press release, Ronda B. Goldfein, AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania executive director and the family's attorney, stated, "Like Ryan White, this young man is 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 federal Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on real or perceived disabilities.

Since this news hit on Dec. 1 (World AIDS Day, no less), the blogosphere has erupted in opposition and support of the school's decision.

Columnist Gil Spencer of the Delaware County Daily Times argued that this that the risk of transmission is not as remote as those opposing the school's decision make it out to be:

"People are still getting and transmitting the HIV virus in this country. Residential educational settings are hardly immune from that sad fact. The HIV outbreak on 37 college campuses in North Carolina in 2003 should make that devastatingly clear."

Blogger Corina Fiore of The Broad Side highlighted what she thought made the school's decision illegal:

"We cannot assume that [this 13-year-old] will have unprotected sex while attending the Milton Hershey school, therefore the school cannot discriminate because [its] fear that he may engage in unprotected sex. Furthermore, we cannot assume that all teens make the poor decision to have unprotected sex, just like we cannot assume that all young children bite."

Even a few of's bloggers have weighed in on the issue.

In "Demand Hershey Trust Co. (Owners of Hershey Company) Reverse Decision on HIV+Student and Dismiss School Officials," Kevin Maloney wrote:

"I cannot believe the ignorance surrounding this story, and why the parents of these children of the school are not in support of this boy?!? Have we really fallen back 20+ years on AIDS education and awareness?"

And in a video blog, "HIV-Positive 13-Year-Old Honor Student DENIED Education by Milton Hershey School," Justin B. Terry-Smith states:

"I don't think anyone who denies a child an education has a heart, and if they do it's cold as ice. Unfortunately history has reared its ugly head again. Ryan White had to go through a lot trying to get into public school because he had AIDS. Hopefully this young man will come out on top like White did."

Where do you stand on the issue?

Copyright © 2011 The HealthCentral Network, Inc. All rights reserved.

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This article was provided by TheBody.
See Also
More on HIV/AIDS-Related Discrimination Cases


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