Davis school board members want to make sure parents understand what their children will be taught if they sign a letter giving permission for them to learn about contraceptives.
The school board rejected a draft copy of the letter to be sent to parents Tuesday night because they said the consent form was too vague and could be easily misunderstood. They will vote on a rewritten version Dec. 6. It should be distributed to parents in the district shortly after that.If parents sign the form, students in grades seven through 12 will be included in a segment of a state-mandated AIDS course that says condoms do not prevent the spread of AIDS.
Jim Hill, district health specialist, said, "It will be five to 15 minutes maximum. This is a discussion where the parent consent must be given."
Board members were concerned that the consent form was written in such a way that the parents might believe they were giving consent for the child to be taught all of the AIDS-related curriculum rather than just the portion that deals with condoms. The state has mandated that all school children be taught the curriculum.
"We need to make sure it really tells the parents what they are being asked to consent to," Board Member Henry Heath said.
The letter will retain language that invites parents to study the AIDS curriculum being used in Davis schools.
Heath was also concerned about how students who do not receive the consent would be treat ed, despite district guidelines that say "students whose parentsdo not give permission for instruction will be handled with discretion and sensitivity."
"We are kidding ourselves if we think it doesn't produce stigma," he said.
Students who do not participate in the class will be taken to another room and be given an alternate assignment, Hill said.
There is nothing that prohibits students who hear the discussion from sharing the information with those who don't.
Hill said condoms will only be addressed as part of looking at several myths about AIDS. The curriculum does not address the use of contraceptives to prevent AIDS if teens are sexually active. In fact, the law prohibits schools from making such a suggestion. Teachers will be able to answer questions about contraceptives as long as they promote abstinence. They cannot, however, initiate such discussions.
Steve Serkin, Davis Education Association executive director, asked Hill about how a teacher is supposed to know when he crosses those limits. The policy also presents dilemmas when teachers fail to answer students' questions because of legal limitations.
Hill suggested that the district have a night for parents to learn about AIDS as it is being taught in the schools. However, Board President Sheryl Allen admitted the school curriculum is pretty watered down compared to other sources.
"All the parents have to do is listen to the nightly news to receive more startling information than this," she said, saying that public opinion polls show most Utah parents supported the discussion of contraceptives in schools.