High school students who want to learn about AIDS, contraception and other sex-related issues at public school will have to get permission from a parent first.
That new policy was adopted by the Board of Education Monday in response to pressure from parents who complained that the past policy stigmatized" students because their parents had to submit written requests for their children to be excused from those sessions.
The board approved the measure, 5-1. Board member Anne Sterling voted against it.
In addition, the board said that high schools can use the play "Secrets" as part of their AIDS education curriculum if a controversial picnic scene is eliminated.
Many of the parents testifying at the meeting said that parents who want their children to learn about sex-related topics in school should have to request it instead of the other way around.
I believe it would be better if the parents had to ask to have their children participate," said Robert Hooper, a parent.
Several parents said their children resent it when they have to submit written requests to be excused from class because "it doesn't look cool." They also said their high-school-age children don't even like it when parents show up at school for any reason.
The board made the decision after hearing about 45 minutes of testimony from parents and students about the proposed AIDS education curriculum and "Secrets", an educational play about AIDS sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, a health maintenance organization.
The "Secrets" program is usually presented at an assembly. Last year, it was presented in Edgewood High School as part of a pilot program.
Several parents complained to the school board that the emphasis in the "Secrets" program is not on abstinence but on making sexual activity safe. " John Pirog, a parent of seven children who lives in Edgewood, said the emphasis on the physical aspects of sex in the play was too great and the program deviates from an abstinence-based sex education program. He argued the board should adopt a "value-based" sex education curriculum. "
Several parents argued that the AIDS education curriculum was necessary because even though children should abstain from pre-marital sex, there may be circumstances where they should know the appropriate measures to protect themselves from AIDS or venereal diseases.
Materials in these courses should be available at public libraries for parents to inspect, said several parents. One mother said her daughter gets upset with her every time she shows up at school even if it is for the most innocent purpose.
The board did not rule on that request, but reiterated its policy that all curriculum materials used in the school system are available for parental inspection.
The board also decided that including the "Secrets" program in the AIDS education unit will be left up to the individual high schools.
In addition, the board said the so-called "picnic scene" will have to be eliminated from the play when it is performed at a county high school. During that scene the proper use of a condom is shown by placing one on a banana.
"Kaiser Permanente is very accommodating and that should be no problem," said Albert Seymour, a school system spokesman.