Hershey seeks protective order in court case

Hershey seeks protective order in court case

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Attorneys for Milton Hershey School asked a federal judge to protect from public disclosure legal documents in an antibias case filed by a gay man.

The school’s July 28 request for a protective order is pending before U.S. District Judge Christopher C. Conner. A description of the documents the school wants protected hasn’t been disclosed.

Funded by the late chocolate magnate Milton S. Hershey, the school serves 2,000 underprivileged youth from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. Students live on campus in cottages with assigned house parents.

Former Hershey student Adam Dobson filed suit last year against the school, claiming a house parent pressured him to view an antigay video.

Dobson, 22, was enrolled in the school for several years prior to his expulsion in 2013. He’s requesting an unspecified amount in damages and remedial measures at the school. 

Dobson alleges that school officials discriminated against him because of his depression — a condition that was exacerbated due to pressure from a house parent to change his sexual orientation. 

Another former student, Marcous Marchese, recently spoke out publicly about allegedly being pressured into watching an antigay video by two Hershey house parents in 2010.

Lisa Scullin, a spokesperson for the school, issued this statement: “The motion [for a protective order] is currently before the court and will follow its due course. As such, we can’t provide additional detail at this time. But we anticipate a ruling in the near term. I do want to take this opportunity to reiterate that gay conversion therapy, while not relevant to this case, is something which Milton Hershey School would never condone or support.”

The case is in the discovery phase. A jury trial tentatively is set for 9:30 a.m. April 2 at the Ronald Reagan Court House, 228 Walnut St. in Harrisburg, with Conner presiding. 

Justin F. Robinette, a local civil-rights attorney, said protective orders are rare in antibias cases.

“Sometimes one side feels prejudiced due to pretrial publicity, and convinces a judge to issue a protective order,” Robinette said. “But judges usually avoid issuing such orders. Generally speaking, the public has a right to know what’s being litigated — and how taxpayer dollars are being spent in the courts. Transparency is the order of the day.”

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