Philadelphia Inquirer (02.08.12) - Wednesday, February 08,
Responding to a lawsuit, the Milton Hershey School (MHS) said
in a court filing Friday that it acted properly in denying
admission to a 13-year-old Delaware County boy identified in
documents as "Abraham Smith." The AIDS Law Project of
Pennsylvania (ALPP) filed an Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA) suit in federal court in Philadelphia in December,
seeking reversal of the Hershey, Pa.-based boarding school's
decision and payment of unspecified damages.
In its response, MHS said the case "requires a realistic
examination of teen sexuality" and the "inability to control
consensual sexual activity ... in the unique residential
MHS said Smith in 2011 met "initial minimal qualifications"
for admission to MHS, which serves low-income families. Before
it discontinued processing Smith's application upon learning
he had HIV, MHS said it "weighed a number of complicated
factors." While it has policies to control sexual behavior,
MHS said evidence shows "that a significant percentage of its
students will ... become sexually active prior to graduation."
Smith's "needs cannot be accommodated without imposing an
undue burden," MHS said, adding that it "must balance his
rights against its obligations to the health and safety of
other students." In asking the court to rule that it did not
violate the ADA, the school said Smith "would pose a direct
threat to the health and safety of others."
ALPP faulted MHS for failing "to make any individualized
assessment as to whether Abraham's HIV status posed a direct
threat." ALPP also said it will contest MHS's motion to move
the trial from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, 15 minutes from the
school, as being an immense inconvenience to the youth and his