Updated Tuesday, March 20, 2:45 p.m. (PST)
Jeanne White Ginder, mother of the late Ryan White, will speak out today against the discrimination in Hershey Trust’s Milton Hershey School’s denial of a student based on his HIV positive status. Why is this incident hitting too close to home for Ginder? More after the jump.
Ryan White rose to fame as the American teenager from Kokomo, Indiana, who was expelled from his Indiana middle school in the 1980s when he was 13 because he was HIV-positive.
The Milton Hershey School recently denied admission to an HIV positive applicant whose name has not been disclosed, calling him a calling him a “direct threat to the health and safety of others.” We often marvel at how uneducated people can be, even when they run a school!
The Wall Street Journal has reported that, 22 years after White's passing, the current situation in Hershey has given White’s mom an unsettling feeling and a call to action. She is speaking out today against the schools discriminatory decision, having stated that it “brings back horrible memories of what Ryan had to go through.”
White Ginder believes the community could be learning more about HIV/AIDS and the school has “...an opportunity to educate Hershey to do the right thing and lead by example.” Not only could the school be working to create a more understanding community, but also a more tolerant one.
Millton Hershey School Defends Decision to Deny HIV Positive Student
Officials from the Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania have continued to defend the school's denial of admission to an HIV-positive student in a detailed (and revealing) statement. So, on what grounds does Milton Hershey claim it was OK to turn away a 13-year old boy?
Last week we brought you the school's first line of defense after the story went viral. Speaking with a local news affiliate, Milton Hershey officials said they turned away an HIV-positive applicant because they had to "protect our children."
Now, via a statement posted to the school's website, Milton Hershey has widened its net of justifications in light of the lawsuit lofted against it.
Reads part of the statement:
The School decided that it could not admit the student who uses the pseudonym Abraham Smith due to factors relating to his HIV-positive status. This decision was not made based on bias or ignorance. We considered a number of factors relating to the risks posed to the health and safety of others, and our ability to reduce those risks and maintain confidentiality in our unique residential environment.
We know that HIV is not transmitted through casual contact and, thankfully, that universal precautions can address the concerns of transmission in a typical school environment. Our unique environment, however, also poses unique concerns. A significant concern is that HIV can be transmitted through sexual contact. We systematically encourage abstinence, and we educate our children on sexual health issues. But, as special as they are, our teenagers are the same as teens all across the country. Despite our best efforts, some of our students will engage in sexual activity with one another. Given our residential setting, when they do, they will be doing so on our watch.
We understand that the risks presented by an HIV-positive individual who is on medication are low. Taking all these and other factors in consideration, including the fact that we would be prohibited by law from informing our community of the young man's HIV-positive status, we concluded that the risk was significant, and rose to the level of a direct threat to the health and safety of others. Our first obligation is to protect the students already in our care. If we knowingly admitted a student with HIV, and 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.
Sure, it's cool that Milton Hershey—unlike many other esteemed educational institutions—doesn't ignore the fact that its teenage students are sexually active; however, by its own reasoning, shouldn't the school therefore regularly test all students and applicants for any kind of STDI? Or does this still simply boil down to a raging case of HIV-phobia?