A college in Georgia has reached a settlement with federal authorities after forcing a student with HIV to leave its medical assistant program.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta said Tuesday that Gwinnett College had agreed to “resolve an investigation” into whether the school violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Officials at the college told a female, HIV-positive student that she posed a “safety risk” to other students and could not continue in the program, according to Project Q Atlanta. Although the unnamed student had already completed one academic quarter of coursework, she chose to leave the school.
Under the terms of the settlement the school will pay the student $23,000 and remove questions regarding HIV status from its admissions paperwork. U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that Gwinnett College will also draft new policies to indicate that it does not discriminate against applicants or students based on HIV status.
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“Despite years of education regarding HIV and AIDS, many people still encounter discrimination based on the stigma of this disability,” Yates said in an statement. “Our office will continue to devote resources to fight injustices for people with HIV.”
College President Michael Davis told the Gwinnett Daily Post that he thought he was acting in the best interest of his students and was unaware that he had done anything wrong when he asked the student to leave the program. He pointed out that the medical assistant program requires students to perform “live injections,” often on fellow students, and that although safety precautions are taken, he was afraid an accident could happen.
“My fear was that these students could get infected by their own stupidity, and that doesn’t mean anything negative,” Davis said. “… My stupidity was that I thought I was protecting the majority of my students.”
The student at the center of the investigation has decided not to return to Gwinnett College. The money the school agreed to pay her will cover “a portion” of her student loans and “compensate her for emotional distress, pain and suffering,” the statement from Yates said.