Don't let AIDS prevention instruction in the schools send conflicting messages on morality or give explicit details to our children, parents told members of a Utah State Board of Education committee Friday.
Educators developing the instructional materials assured parent representatives that the AIDS curriculum would be sensitive, age-appropriate and subject to parental review in the school districts. They emphasized that it would be taught only within the context of a larger curriculum, called character education, that will teach values and responsible decision making.The comments came in a discussion of the preliminary draft that spells out the core standards for AIDS prevention instruction in grades 3-12. The State Office of Education, in consultation with health experts, has developed objectives in AIDS instruction and outlines what teachers should discuss.
The committee, and later the entire board, agreed Friday that the program developers are headed in the right direction. The board won't make its decision on the new curriculum until the board's May meeting.
If the AIDS prevention curriculum is adopted, teachers will receive extensive in-service training this summer. The materials, developed for three days of instruction, would be used in the healthy lifestyles curriculum.
DeeAnn Fisher of Families Alert said parents want to know ahead of time what materials their children will receive during AIDS instruction.
She also said parents are concerned that students will receive conflicting messages. If the dialogue in the classroom tells a student "if you're sexually active, use a condom" or "if you choose to be sexually active, use a condom," it gives credibility to a disease-promoting mentality and violates state law, which says it is illegal to condone or promote immorality, Fisher said.
State PTA representative Mary Ann Kirk also wanted the curriculum more specifically to spell out the necessity of parental consent, not just parental involvement, when a school district begins AIDS prevention instruction.
She said she also objected to the curriculum discussing types of contraceptives too specifically. Kirk said she thinks instruction needs to emphasize that condoms fail to protect against AIDS.
Bonnie Morgan, state coordinator for curriculum, said the state will stress to the districts that parents must have the opportunity to review materials and it will suggest that an evening be put aside for that purpose.
"We not only want parents involved, but we want parental review of curriculum and parental consent," she said.
Bruce T. Griffin, also of the State Office of Education, said curriculum developers have "really tried to thread the needle" by giving information that will be meaningful while, at the same time, not including material that is offensive.
Morgan added that AIDS prevention instruction will be done carefully and with sensitivity. "We've tried to keep these things as innocuous as possible, but with the knowledge that these things need to be taught."
Griffin also said that students in the appropriate grades will be taught that condoms are not always protection against AIDS. "We want to send the subtle message out strongly that the impression in the news media that there is such a thing as safe sex is a fallacy."