DOJ: Pennsylvania School Must Pay $700,000 to Student Denied Admission Because He’s HIV-Positive


Back in December of last year I wrote about the Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania and its denial of admission to a student, known under the pseudonym Abraham Smith, over his HIV-positive status. Since that time, the Department of Justice and the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania became involved, filing a lawsuit with the boy's parents and charging the school with violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The school reversed its decision last month.

Today, the DOJ announced a settlement in the case:

Under the settlement agreement, the school is required to pay $700,000 to Smith and his mother, adopt and enforce a policy prohibiting discrimination and requiring equal opportunity for students with disabilities, including those with HIV, in the school’s programs and services, and to provide training to staff and administrators on the requirements of the ADA.  The school must also pay a $15,000 civil penalty to the United States.
“Children should not be denied educational opportunities simply because they have HIV,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “This settlement sends a clear message that unlawful discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS will not be tolerated.”
“This is a very significant case, affirming the rights of persons with HIV, and we applaud the school for working so cooperatively to amend its position on this matter,” said Zane David Memeger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The ADA requires public accommodations, including private schools such as the Milton Hershey School, to provide individuals with disabilities, including people with HIV, equal access to goods, services, privileges, accommodations, facilities, advantages and accommodations.

The school's excuse at the time of the denial of Smith's admission said that “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.”


  1. jay says

    Happy to hear this, but sucks to live in that town as the fines will just be passed on to the residents who might have even been totally against the ban. Guess its time for people to leave that town before having to pay the tax. The fines should come from the individuals who made the decision, not the school itself and the residents.

  2. JohnInGa says

    @Jay–it’s a private school. Taxpayers won’t be on the hook for the settlement. In fact, the school probably has insurance policies to cover legal judgments.

  3. travshad says

    @STARGEM – The school owns controlling interest in the The Hershey Company based in Hershey, PA. With around $7.5 billion or so in assets, I think the school can afford the judgement.

    Since attendance at the school is based on financial need, does this student no longer qualify?

  4. gregory brown says

    Unless there was the likelihood that tis young man would be buggering fellow students nbareback, or living among teen vampires, what was the school’s problem, rally?
    The Admin probably still associates HIV/AIDS with icky sex. There’s probably greater risk from meningitis.

  5. says

    All Right! Nail their sorry a**es! A serious case of discrimination at the cost of $700,000 – just short of 1 million bucks. I can’t applaud enough. To all those Pennsylvanians who thought the school did the right thing – you were wrong. The school did the worst thing possible and now you, as citizens, are going to pay the price at $700,000. Wow! Great judgment!

  6. "The Gay" says

    What do you want to bet that the scumbag administrators responsible for this incident, and for costing the town 700k aren’t going to be held accountable for their actions, and are still going to be free to f*ck up the already f*cked up education system ?

    The red in the US right now is to blame the teachers, blame the unions, but never, ever blame the incompetent administration, the parents, and their spoiled rotten little brats for their awful test scores and their horrible grades and disinterest in learning in general.

    We need some real reform in this country, sh*tty school administrators have been screwing the public for DECADES, and it’s nobody’s fault but the parents for putting up with it and blaming everybody else but themselves for letting it happen.

  7. BGKev says

    They were wrong to deny him admission, but the fact is, in environments like boarding schools a certain amount of sexual activity is statistically quite likely to happen, and when it does, it’s probably unlikely to be “safer” sex.