Back in January of 2012, Milton Hershey School (MHS) made the ill-fated decision to deny a 13-year-old applicant simply because he was HIV-positive. Soon after, The AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the school, which, as it turns out, is dedicated to helping “low income and socially disadvantaged students” in addition to being financially supported by a trust with a controlling share in The Hershey Company.
MHS maintained that their decision to deny acceptance to “Abraham Smith” was justified, beacuse “given our residential setting” the risk of transmitting HIV “[rises] to the level of a direct threat to the health and safety of others.” Somewhat shockingly, they also worried that, should the 13-year-old have intimate contact with another student, they would be responsible, “if that student ultimately had sexual relations with another student that led to the transmission of HIV, we believe we would have failed in meeting our obligation.”
Fast forward seven months, and you’ll find that MHS is singing a different tune. In a report released today by the Associated Press, it seems that MHS has decided to reverse their decision and offer “Abraham Smith” acceptance for the fall of this year.
So, what made them change their once firm stance on the matter? Well, it appears that all they needed was a little push from the U.S. Department of Justice. MHS specifically attributed the reversal to some fresh “guidance” from the U.S. Department of Justice, which, presumably, means they got reamed out by the feds for their early 1980s mindset.
School president Anthony Colistra has since sent the student a letter apologizing for the incident and officially offering him acceptance, though, it has not been confirmed whether he will attend next fall.