The director of Salt Lake AIDS Foundation has dropped out of the state school board's AIDS education program in response to objections by Families Alert, a conservative group.
Families Alert wrote a letter to State School Board Member John M.R. Covey, and sent copies to the other eight board members. The organization objected to the use of Ben Barr as a teacher trainer for the state's new AIDS education program. They said that Barr, who they called "a practicing homosexual," should not be involved in a school program.DeeAnn J. Fisher, legislative council president for Families Alert, signed the letter. Families Alert was founded by Joy Beech, Ogden. It has been vocal on issues related to pornography, indecency and sex education, taking a conservative approach that precludes such education in schools without parental consent.
Barr said he would not want his presence in the state school AIDS program to diminish the effectiveness of the program. Education has been identified as the only protection against the disease, and Utah's state school board spent more than a year developing a curriculum that meets community standards.
In addition, he said his responsibilities with the AIDS Foundation have increased and the training program for school teachers would take more time as it moves out of the Wasatch Front area.
"This whole Families Alert thing has been blown out of proportion, it was just the timing, my work there was not the most important issue right now," Barr said.
He said he has completed five of nine teacher training sessions he had contracted with the district to conduct.
Bruce Griffin, associate state superintendent for operations and curriculum, also said it would be detrimental to allow a controversy to interfere with implementing the AIDS curriculum.
The curriculum was developed with considerable community input, including that of Families Alert, and the goal of the state office is to get information to school children within guidelines that are compatible with community standards and as quickly as possible.
Teachers are now being trained to implement two AIDS curricula into the classroom - one for regular classroom use and a second for school youngsters considered to be at greater risk or whose parents want them to have more explicit information about AIDS.