BY Michelle Garcia
March 14 2012 12:00 AM ET
It's been decades since we first learned about Ryan White, the Indiana teen who was shunned and expelled from his middle school when it was revealed that he had HIV. Our understanding of the virus and AIDS was not as advanced in the 1980s, but White's candor taught the nation that discriminating against anyone with HIV is not only immoral, it should be illegal'as it now is, under the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, passed in 1990.
But late last year a teenage boy was turned away from a boarding school in Hershey, Pa., after administrators found out that he is HIV-positive. The 13-year-old, who has not been publicly identified, was told he could not enter the Milton Hershey School because officials were afraid he would expose the 1,850 other students to the virus.
'I thought I would get into the school because of the type of student and person I am,' said the athlete and honor roll student through his attorney. But now, he says, his life 'has turned into fear, anger, confusion, and tears.'
Connie McNamara, a spokeswoman for the school, told ABC News that administrators see the boy as a 'direct threat' because he could potentially have sex with another student.
In November the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit on the boy's and his family's behalf, arguing that his rights have been violated under the disabilities act.
Daniel C. Montoya of the National Minority AIDS Council predicted that the courts would rule in the boy's favor, especially since the Department of Justice has prioritized pursuing HIV-related discrimination cases.
'Perhaps the most saddening aspect of this story is that the school, whose stated mission is to 'nurture and educate children in social and financial need,' not only turned away a deserving student, but also missed an opportunity to educate its student body on tolerance, respect and human dignity,' Montoya said in December. 'Instead of teaching its students how to make healthy choices, the administration showed them that being HIV-positive is something to be ashamed of and that it is acceptable to discriminate against those who may be different.'