Another Ruby Bridges: a student denied entrance to school because of something out of his control

By Nooreen Moinuddin

“I thought I would get into the school because of the type of student and person I am,” said a 13 year old honors student who was denied admission to the Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania, to ABC News. “My life has turned into fear, anger, confusion, and tears.”

In Hershey, Pennsylvania, a 13 year old boy, who is an honors student, an athlete, and also happens to be HIV positive, was denied admission to Hershey School, simply because he has HIV, reported NBC Philadelphia News. HIV is human immunodeficiency virus, which weakens the body’s immune system and can make infected patients at risk to cancer and other infections.

When questioned, a representative of the school stated that the school firmly believes that this student poses a direct threat to the health and safety of the other 1,850 students. Connie McNamara, a spokesperson of the school also said to ABC News, “We had to balance his rights and interests with our obligation to provide for the health and safety of other students.”

However, medical professionals are saying this is not the case. The student is on antiretroviral medications, which according to the U.S. department of Health, lowers the transmission rate of HIV through sex by 96%. It is common knowledge that HIV cannot be transmitted through sharing drinks, using a public restroom, or any other everyday activity. The school is basing its assumption on the 4% chance that the antiretroviral drug will fail, IF the student even has sexual intercourse with another student, on the condition that it is unprotected.

The idea that, even a private school, can deny admission to a student with a disability, essentially HIV, is shocking. It shows the public’s ignorance about HIV, something I hoped and believed did not exist anymore. It is unfair and unconstitutional to deny this hardworking honors student admission, based on the fact that he is HIV positive.

The AIDS Law Project is filing a law suit on behalf of this student, alleging that the Hershey School is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by denying him admission based on his disability. His lawyer, Ronda Goldfein explained that “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.”

Although this is a boarding school, which houses around 1,850 children, it is similar to many other schools because of its dedication to educating its students. Yet, Milton Hershey School is sending a message to society saying that no child with HIV should be allowed in public, or interact with anyone, in fear that he or she will transmit this virus through sexual intercourse. Are children at public schools or non-boarding schools guaranteed to honor abstinence? Absolutely not.

This school has made an uneducated, ignorant decision. Both legal and medical professionals full confidence that justice will be served in court, letting this 13 year old boy study wherever he pleases, regardless of his disability ( Before unnecessarily fearing things, we need to educate ourselves, and make use of our knowledge to make fair decisions, something that the Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania did not do.