Legal Aid Society of Rockland County

Ruling Issued in Country’s Only Discrimination Case Addressing HIV-Positive Children in Camp

The following article appeared Jan 19, 2010 on the wnylc.net website.

NEW YORK, January 19, 2010—The United States District Court for the Southern District of New
York has issued a summary judgment ruling in favor of the plaintiff in a discrimination suit brought
against Rockland County, New York-based Deer Mountain Day Camp by the mother of a 10-year-old
boy who was excluded from its one-week basketball program because he is HIV positive. The court
found that Deer Mountain Day Camp violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the New York
State Human Rights Law when it denied admission to the boy because of his HIV status. The case is
the only one in the country to address the issue of HIV-positive children in camp and is one of the
only cases in the country to address the issue of HIV-positive children in extra-curricular activities.

In its ruling, the court rejected the camp’s defense that its decision was justified because the plaintiff,
“Adam Doe,” might transmit HIV through the camp toilets or pool or through playing basketball. The
camp “provided the court with no objective, medical evidence to support their threat determination,”
the court said. The court also rejected the camp’s argument that its decision to deny Adam
admission was based on reasons other than Adam’s HIV status. According to the court, every reason
the camp offered, such as concerns about the side effects of his medications, was intrinsically related
to Adam’s HIV status.

Upon hearing about the ruling, the boy’s mother, “Jane Doe,” said: “I am really happy and hope that
this will prevent other people from having to go through what we went through. My son was just a
little kid who wanted to have fun. But when he found out that the camp turned him away because of
his HIV status, he asked ‘is this how it’s going to be, Mom?’ This was the first time he faced
discrimination. Since then, he has not wanted anyone to know his HIV status. Now maybe he’ll have
hope.”

Adam Doe’s response to the victory was that “it’s good that the law works for kids…. I hope this will
help someone else.”

“This decision makes it clear that camps and other extra-curricular programs may not exclude HIVpositive
children because of outmoded and unfounded fears about transmission,” said Sally
Friedman, a Legal Action Center attorney who represented Adam Doe. “The law requires that
decisions be based on objective medical evidence, not myth and stereotype. Public health authorities
have called upon camps and other extra-curricular programs to use universal precautions and
assume that any child or staff member might have a blood-borne disease such as HIV as hepatitis.”

The case was originally brought by the Legal Aid Society of Rockland County, New York, and the
Legal Action Center. After discovery, the two organizations sought pro bono assistance from
international law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in preparing and defending cross motions for
summary judgment.

About the Legal Action Center

The Legal Action Center, a nonprofit law firm, is one of the nation’s leading experts in the law of HIV
discrimination and confidentiality. The Center specializes in legal and public policy issues relating to
HIV/AIDS, alcoholism and drug addiction and the criminal justice system.

About the Legal Aid Society of Rockland County

The Legal Aid Society of Rockland County is a nonprofit law firm, committed to providing high quality
representation to low income Rockland County residents in civil cases for more than 40 years. Legal
Aid’s HIV/AIDS Project provides comprehensive legal representation to persons living with HIV/AIDS
on a wide range of legal issues including Discrimination, Advanced Directives, Housing, and Social
Security Disability.

To find out more about the Legal Aid Society and how you can support their work, call (845) 634-3627, or visit their website at www.legalaidrockland.org.

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