To the editor:
I am appalled at the publicity-seeking actions of Families Alert. This organization is riding high on their success in obtaining the dismissal of Ben Barr, who had been employed by the State Board of Education to train teachers in the state-mandated AIDS prevention curriculum.Mr. Barr is a native Utahn and father whose expertise and excellence in the field of AIDS education are well established in the community.
Families Alert has no expertise or credentials in AIDS education, but somehow was taken seriously enough in their role as self-appointed moral guardians to the entire state, that an unsubstantiated charge from them led to Mr. Barr's dismissal by the State Board of Education, without due process.
Utah has not funded local efforts to prevent AIDS, nor to provide care and support of those who have AIDS. This effort is supported by a handful of "unsung heroes," Mr. Barr among them, who see the danger and are willing to live in poverty in order to deal with this menace to life.
I suppose there is a war hero sort of charisma that attaches to the people in this field, which makes the individuals involved a threat to the Families Alert sort of person. Perhaps teachers and children will take Mr. Barr as a role model of selfless service, which is certainly more obvious than his sexual preference.
Families Alert's ludicrous message of AIDS prevention to Utah's sexually active teenagers is "Stop. If you don't, I feel sorry for you, because you are going to die." I am a psychologist with years of experience, and a parent. I have never met the teenager who changed behavior on the basis of such a message.
The state AIDS curriculum presents information which enables teens to make informed choices about behavior, as they will continue to need to do as adults. It has been commended by Surgeon General Koop as an appropriate means of dealing with the public health problem of AIDS.
The real concern is that Utahns must speak up against terminations on the basis of unsubstantiated charges. It is the actions of the State Board of Education that threaten all of us; that is, that a legally constituted body can bypass due process on hearsay evidence.
I hope that responsible members of the community will let the state government know that bowing to the unsubstantiated charges of an irresponsible group of undeveloped moralists threatens us all.
Because of the nature of the charge by which Families Alert secured the termination of Mr. Barr's services with the State Board of Education, I doubt that many Utahns will risk speaking out.
Salt Lake City