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3L Assists with High Profile Discrimination Lawsuit

December 01, 2011

Through his work with the law school’s Civil Litigation Field Clinic, 3L Matt Mossman is involved with a high-profile case involving a teen who was refused admission to a school solely because of his HIV status.

Mossman is helping with a suit filed on Nov. 30 by the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania against the Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Pa. The boarding school, which serves disadvantaged students, denied admission to a 13-year-old boy who has been diagnosed HIV positive.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, alleges that the school violated multiple anti-discrimination laws in refusing to admit the boy. The school acknowledges basing its decision on the boy’s HIV status but contends his presence would put other children at risk.

Ronda Goldfein, executive director of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and an adjunct professor at the law school, said the school’s decision violates the boy’s rights.

“If you have a school that’s open to the public, then it’s open to the public,” Goldfein told NBC Philadelphia, in a story that has been picked up by media outlets including the Huffington Post and Salon.

Mossman, who has been working on the case since the start of the academic year, said he still finds it startling, even now that the complaint has been filed.

“It’s amazing how blatant the violation is – it’s an obvious contravention of the law,” Mossman said.

Observing and taking part in the networking effort involved in the case, including outreach to the U.S. Department of Justice, has been a rich learning experience and a rewarding one, Mossman said.

“This is the kind of big lawsuit you see in the case books,” he said. “It’s obvious how big lawsuits do some good in the world, and make it possible to improve people’s lives.”