After Milton Hershey School denied admission last year to an HIV-positive 13-year-old, his parents filed a lawsuit alleging the school violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by discriminating against their son based on his HIV status. The private boarding school reversed its decision last month, pledging to amend their policies to be more inclusive of HIV issues, and reached a settlement in the lawsuit today that awards the student’s family $700,000 in damages for HIV-based discrimination.
Thomas E. Perez, the Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, applauded the settlement for reaffirming the importance of addressing HIV stigma:
PEREZ: Children should not be denied educational opportunities simply because they have HIV. This settlement sends a clear message that unlawful discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS will not be tolerated.
The 13-year-old student has lived with HIV his whole life. After he was denied admission to Milton Hershey School based on concerns that his HIV status would “pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others,” national protests erupted, prompting the boarding school’s president to announce updates to the institution’s anti-discrimination policies to ensure it “treats applicants with HIV no differently than any other applicants.” Today’s settlement with the Justice Department also requires the school to provide staff and administrators with further training on the requirements of the ADA.