On Facebook today Milton Hershey School released a status indicating why they denied an HIV positive child to enroll in the school.
The decision to deny enrollment was a challenging one for us to make. Like all our enrollment decisions, we need to balance our desire to serve the needs of an individual child seeking admission with our obligation to protect the health and safety of all 1,850 children already in our care.
This is indeed causing a stir in the community as some comments suggest that it is a mere toss up between the communal safety for the residential school and ignorance to how far medicine has come to regulating the disease. In their status MHS does confirm that they have filed a federal review for their decision.
Today is World AIDS Day and to commemorate people with AIDS and HIV, I feel sympathy for the child that is being denied access to a wonderful education and a great chance to become something in this world due to the fear of possible community infection.
According to WorldAIDSDay.org, “Over 90% of people with HIV were infected through sexual contact…HIV is not passed on through spitting, biting or sharing utensils.” OK, so we all can agree that SEX and BLOOD are the two HIGH contributors to spreading this disease. Well, how likely is this kid going to be having sex or sharing blood? Well in Milton Hershey School’s status, the school goes on to commment 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. The reason is simple. We are serving children, and no child can be assumed to always make responsible decisions which protect the well being of others.
The key phrase to point out is that “no child can be assumed to always make responsible decisions which protect the well being of others.” What a very brash and bold statement to make. Clearly, they are anticipating, in my opinion, that this child who is infected with HIV is going to (based on the facts) to have contact with others sexually or by blood.
In this year 2011, we are aware of AIDS and HIV. We understand that this is a mature topic and it should not be handled lightly. However, I do disagree with the school’s decision to deny enrollment when clearly measures can be taken to ensure safety. No working in the kitchen or in the yard. If a paper cut happens do not touch the child with bare hands. Simple. Then we have the sex factor.
Now, by the magic of online media, I found a CNN article by Michael Martinez and Chuck Johnston that reports that the child is a 13-year-old boy and the case mimics another similar case in 1990.
Executive director Ronda B. Goldfein of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, which is representing the boy and his mother, likened the case to Ryan White, who died at age 18 in 1990 and had been expelled from middle school when his HIV diagnosis became widely known.
“Like Ryan White, this young man is a motivated, intelligent kid who poses no health risk to other students, but is being denied an educational opportunity because of ignorance and fear about HIV and AIDS,” said Goldfein, an attorney for the boy and mother.
The boy is 13-years-old and he wants to receive the best possible education he can get. I am pretty sure and my intuition tells me that he is not going to be having sex and will not be swapping blood anytime soon. Because he knows it will ultimately kill people when not treated properly. Milton Hershey School does deny the similarity with the Ryan White case in their statement
Attorneys for this young man and his mother have suggested that this case is comparable to the Ryan White case. But this case is actually nothing like the Ryan White case. Milton Hershey School is not a day school, where students go home to their family at the end of the day. Instead, this is a unique home-like environment, a pre-K -12 residential school where children live in homes with 10-12 other students on our campus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The cases maybe different on the surface with age and names, however both students are being denied an education. Education is a fundamental promise that being a citizen of this country we are to have. So this decision is saddening and I send positive energy to the boy and his family during this stressful time.
I know I wouldn’t want to be discriminated against for a medical condition. And this statement from my high school is really embarrassing. With all the resources they have wouldn’t special accommodations be made. Enrolled students have passed away due to cancer and other means, I wonder what they would think with this decision.