Pennsylvania School Turns Away HIV-Positive Student

Jim Burroway

December 2nd, 2011

Honestly, I had to look at the calendar to make sure it wasn’t still 1985 when I saw this one:

The Milton Hershey School was founded by the chocolate tycoon as a school that “nurtures and educates children in social and financial need to lead fulfilling and productive lives.” But it seems that fulfillment won’t be coming for a 13-year-old honor student from Delaware County who is infected with the virus that causes AIDS. “I feel no other teenager should go through this, being denied just because they have HIV,” the boy said in an exclusive interview with NBC Philadelphia’s Denise Nakano.

He is suing the school in U.S. Federal District Court, alleging that the Hershey School is in violation of “multiple anti-discrimination laws.” The school has, in effect, admitted as such in a particularly ignorant fashion:

Milton Hershey School released a statement Wednesday saying in part 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.”

Except he doesn’t pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others. He’s not a walking HIV virus, eager to infect everyone he comes in contact with.


December 2nd, 2011

Do they not remember Ryan White and all of the press back in the 1980s?

Of course not.

Regan DuCasse

December 2nd, 2011

It never ceases to amaze me when an EDUCATIONAL institution, will itself be so far behind on an educational opportunity. Ryan White and three hemophiliac brothers in FL, I thought, settled this issue of discrimination against children with HIV.

And especially the standards and protocols with regard to chronic, incurable or infectious illnesses a child might have.
HE might be more in danger than any other kids he’s in contact with, frankly.

Mononucleosis, meningitis or Hep A and B are serious risk factors for a kid with a suppressed immunity.
Or even a healthy kid.
But HIV isn’t like the aforementioned that ARE communicable through casual contact.

I hate stupid people. Prejudiced stupid people are the worst. They can cause so many problems, more than solve them. And schools shouldn’t be so full of such stupid, ill informed adults.


December 2nd, 2011

I guess that you might say that these people are stuck on stupid. They ought to know better ………… they are educators and have been educated.


December 2nd, 2011

According to NBC reports the school’s official statement on the matter includes the rationalization “…But this case is actually nothing like the Ryan White case…” because it’s a boarding school, not just a regular school.
I think you’re right Jim, seems like somebody managed to get the DeLorean up to 88 mph.

Timothy Kincaid

December 2nd, 2011

Odd are that if this kid is taking the right meds, he’s not even infectious.

Jimmy Mac

December 2nd, 2011

And people wonder why so much of the rest of the world simply shakes its collective heads in wonder and amazement when these kinds of things happen in this county (and all too often at that.)

Shame, shame, shame.


December 3rd, 2011

I’m shocked that folks who are so-called professionals are just ignorant on this issue. It’s their job to know better (never mind that they’re being horrible people in the process) – they’re just flat out incompetent. How much cash that should be going into education will be spent on a fruitless court case and lawyers?


December 3rd, 2011

“I’m shocked that folks who are so-called professionals are just ignorant on this issue. It’s their job to know better (never mind that they’re being horrible people in the process) – they’re just flat out incompetent. How much cash that should be going into education will be spent on a fruitless court case and lawyers?” – Andrew

I suspect that they will reverse their decision. The outrage appears to be extremely widespread.


December 4th, 2011

To play devils advocate: I am a teacher, and student bleed a lot at school. How does this affect my level of risk and other students’

Timothy (TRiG)

December 4th, 2011


Blood should always be treated as hazardous.



December 5th, 2011

I hope this school has a good insurance policy because they are about to loose a serious lawsuit.

Timothy Kincaid

December 5th, 2011


You are at risk only to the extent that there is blood-to-blood contact. In other words, if you have an open wound, then be careful not to get someone else’s blood on it.

Of course, having an open wound is a bit of a rarity. Wounds seal pretty quickly and if you have one that isn’t healing then you may have something rather nasty and shouldn’t be around children anyway.

Which leaves the other possibility: that you and the child simultaneously injure yourselves. Which is, after all, possible if there is an earthquake or if your school is somehow mistaken for Wall Street and becomes occupied.

But even so, it may surprise you how low your risk is. Those who work in the medical community do sometimes puncture skin through needlesticks or handling other sharp implements. And even when they are exposed to known contaminated blood, transmission is rare.

From Aegis:

Exposures from needlesticks or cuts cause most infections. The average risk of HIV infection after a needlestick/cut exposure to HIV-infected blood is 0.3% (i.e., three-tenths of one percent, or about 1 in 300). Stated another way, 99.7% of needlestick/cut exposures do not lead to infection.

The risk after exposure of the eye, nose, or mouth to HIV-infected blood is estimated to be, on average, 0.1% (1 in 1,000).

The risk after exposure of the skin to HIV-infected blood is estimated to be less than 0.1%. A small amount of blood on intact skin probably poses no risk at all. There have been no cases of HIV transmission documented due to an exposure involving a small amount of blood on intact skin. The risk may be higher if the skin is damaged (e.g., by a recent cut) or if the contact involves a large area of skin or is prolonged.

So I suppose there is some tiny risk to you. Less, say, than being struck by lighting, but still some risk.

So it comes down to this: Are you willing to reject a child because it reduces this minute risk? Is that the kind of person that you are?

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