Books About Aids, Alcoholic Parents Approved By Board

#11 News Story

December 30, 1990|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

Here's a trio of unlikely bedfellows from the past year: Slim Goodbody and an alcoholic mom and dad.

Or were they?

Slim Goodbody, a character featured in an AIDS-education video, and the alcoholic parents, depicted in two books in Carroll's substance-abuse prevention program, were deemed inappropriate for elementary pupils by board member Cheryl A. McFalls.

Both curriculum materials, however, were approved by the five-member Board of Education despite McFalls' objections.

The AIDS instruction was by far the most controversial, eliciting concerns from parents, as well.

McFalls objected to the "sexual content" of a video, "Inside Story: Slim Goodbody," in the AIDS curriculum, saying it was inappropriate for fourth-graders, who have been added to the number of students receiving AIDS instruction in Carroll's classrooms.

Since the state Education Department mandated AIDS instruction at the elementary, middle and high school levels two years ago, Carroll County has included a unit in the sixth-grade health course.

In the past few years, however, health experts, such as former U.S.

Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, have advocated teaching children about the disease at an earlier age to dispel myths and allay fears.

A pilot program was presented at Carroll schools last spring and won enthusiastic support from parents despite some initial unease. The program will be added at other elementary schools this spring.

Although state law mandates the AIDS program in elementary grades, parents are allowed to keep their children from taking the unit. Carroll goes one step further by requiring parental permission for students to take the one-day session.

A handful of parents objected to the fourth-grade program, saying it would create curiosity in 9- and 10-year-olds who otherwise would have no knowledge of, interest in or need to know about sexuality.

Of particular concern, though, was a 15-minute video used in the program that features an actor playing Slim Goodbody, who explains the body's immune system. Slim, for example, shows boxing-gloved white blood cells knocking out wicked germ invaders. The character says "very intimate sexual contact" is one way the disease can be acquired.

McFalls, who had telephoned a national call-in radio show to solicit prayers about the program, voted for the written part of the course but cast a lone vote against the video because it mentioned "sexual intercourse."

She was joined by board member Robert L. Fletcher, though, in voting against the curriculum guides containing books that depict alcoholic parents. Both said they thought the materials were inappropriate for youngsters.

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