Federal Judge: Rockland, N.Y., Camp Illegally Turned Away Boy With HIV
February 3, 2010
A US District judge recently ruled that a Rockland County day camp violated state and federal discrimination laws by denying an HIV-positive boy admission to a 2004 summer program.
When the boy and his mother first met with the director of the basketball academy at Deer Mountain Day Camp, she disclosed her son was HIV-positive, court documents show. The director said he believed the child's HIV status would not "interfere with his admission to and participation in the basketball academy," the lawsuit said. The mother paid the program fee. The boy's serostatus and HIV medications were noted on the camp form completed following a physical exam by his pediatrician.
Several days later, a camp nurse called the pediatrician to ask what the risk of HIV transmission would be for others at the camp.
Court records show that two days before the program started, Director Roberta Katz called to inform the mother that Deer Mountain was denying the boy admission because he was HIV-positive.
"The court agrees that [camp directors] were obligated to protect other campers from a very serious, life-threatening viral infection," wrote Judge Donald Pogue. "But this obligation does not excuse the [camp's] actions when based on unsubstantiated fears, especially in the case of a decision partly made by a health care professional with both extensive experience with HIV and several days in which to confirm her medical opinions and educate other decision makers."
"We hope that this will send a clear message that people who run programs need to be prepared to have a child with HIV and need to understand that HIV-positive children can participate equally in almost all activities," Sally Friedman, an attorney with the nonprofit Legal Action Center, said of the ruling.
Journal News (White Plains)
01.21.2010; Jane Lerner
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