A Gwinnett college that called an HIV-positive student a "safety risk" and kicked her out of its medical assistant program now says it will change its ways, thanks to an investigation by the U.S. attorney's office.
U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates (photo) announced Tuesday that her office reached a settlement with Gwinnett College to compensate the student, change its enrollment process to remove questions related to HIV/AIDS from its application and draft new policies stating that the school does not discriminate on the basis of HIV. Yates launched an investigation into the school, which awards associate degrees, for possibly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. The federal law prohibits places of public accommodations, including colleges, from excluding people with HIV from taking part in its programs.
“Despite years of education regarding HIV and AIDS, many people still encounter discrimination based on the stigma of this disability,” Yates said in a prepared statement. “Our office will continue to devote resources to fight injustices for people with HIV.”
The investigation was prompted by a complaint filed with the U.S. attorney's office. According to the statement from Yates:
The Complainant applied for admission as a student in the Medical Assistant Program at Gwinnett College. As part of the enrollment process, Gwinnett College was informed that the Complainant has HIV. The College accepted the Complainant into the Program, and the Complainant successfully completed one quarter of courses. Only then did Gwinnett College tell the Complainant she could not continue in the program’s Medical Assistant Program because she was a safety risk to others. As a result of being forced from the Program of her choosing, the Complainant left Gwinnett College. Gwinnett College fully cooperated with the United States Attorney's Office to resolve the complaint.
The school agreed to pay the student $23,000 to repay a portion of her student loans and compensate her for emotional distress, pain and suffering, Yates said.