When I think of schools, I think of places designed to educate, empower, and enlighten students in a safe and nurturing way. Granted, I know not all schools live up to this notion, but to learn of a school that actively discriminates against an already vulnerable population is profoundly disturbing. What is unforgivable to me is that a school, the Milton Hershey School, is contributing to the stigma and prejudice that exists against those living with HIV.
When reading the mission statement of the Milton Hershey School, I have to say that it sounds like such a wonderful environment and resource for students:
Milton Hershey School nurtures and educates children in social and financial need to lead fulfilling and productive lives.
The vision statement is even more impressive:
Today, Milton Hershey School is a cost-free, private, coeducational home and school for children from families of low income, limited resources, and social need. The School is funded by a trust established by Milton S. Hershey and his wife Catherine. Milton Hershey School offers a positive, structured home life year-round and an excellent pre-kindergarten through 12th grade education. Our vision focuses on building character and providing children with the skills necessary to be successful in all aspects of life.
To learn that the Milton Hershey School denied admission to a 13-year old who is living with HIV seems to run contrary to the mission and vision of the school. How is the school “building character” when they are modeling discrimination?
I spent some time trying to reach anyone at the Milton Hershey School for comment, but to no avail. I encourage all TSM readers to take action by clicking here and signing a petition telling the school that it is unacceptable to deny admission to students living with HIV. How sad that we have to educate a school about HIV and that it is not an easily communicable disease.
While discriminating against anyone living with HIV is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Milton Hershey School states:
…we cannot accommodate the needs of students with chronic communicable diseases that pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others.
The school is desperately in need of an HIV 101 education class, for then they would know that admitting this 13-year old boy does not pose a threat to the health and safety of others. Is this 1985? Is Ronald Reagan still alive and now working at the Milton Hershey School?