Carroll parents object to AIDS film for students Abstinence given short shrift, critics say

July 02, 1992|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

WESTMINSTER -- Carroll County parents are objecting to a health education video in which teen-agers talk about how they got AIDS, saying it doesn't give enough emphasis to abstinence.

Nearly 150 people attended a screening of "Teen AIDS in Focus" yesterday and filled out surveys about whether the school board should allow its use in ninth-grade health classes.

Questions and comments they offered afterward indicated that most were not in favor of showing the film.

"Condoms and safe sex are mentioned 13 times," said Lorraine Taylor of Westminster, who counted. "Abstinence is mentioned only once."

One more screening will be held, at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Westminster High School auditorium, before the Board of Education votes July 15. Board President Cheryl McFalls already has said she disapproves of the video.

A group of parents have started organizing to get the board to deny this film and approve another, "No Second Chance."

That film also shows people with acquired immune deficiency syndrome, but promotes abstinence from premarital sex as the only sure way to avoid infection, said Melvin Arbaugh, a Westminster architect lodging a petition drive and ad campaign against "Teen AIDS in Focus."

School officials have said "Teen AIDS" has more than one reference to abstinence, and stressed that the speaker and teachers would use the film to discuss abstinence, which is the system's policy.

One of the last images in the film is a young man with AIDS who says his big mistake was confusing sex with love.

"That would be a perfect springboard for us to discuss abstinence," said Marjorie Lohnes, supervisor of home economics and health for the schools. "Safe sex is a term which is never used in Carroll County schools as something that is factual."

Mrs. Lohnes said the film is powerful for its presentation of real teens with AIDS, many of whom have since died. It includes many who say they got the disease through heterosexual contact.

The videotape was recommended by the Family Life Committee, which screens materials for the board. It includes parents, teachers, clergy and one student.

A few parents said the film would spark good discussion among teens and bring the issue closer to them.

"I think it's great," said Robin Murray of Hampstead, who has four children. "I want them to be scared. I want them to know if they get AIDS, they will die.

"If you don't want your kid to see it, don't sign the permission slip," Mrs. Murray said. "Don't keep my kids from seeing it just because you don't agree with it."

The system requires signed slips for any students to take any sex-education classes.

Mrs. Murray said she agrees that abstinence is what parents and the school should stress; however, she said, "You can preach abstinence until you're blue in the face -- if they want to do it [have sex], they're going to do it."

The board's written policy is to stress abstinence, but to provide information for students who choose to be sexually active.

"Our teachers believe in the abstinence policy," Mrs. Lohnes said. She said the same applies to speakers from the Carroll County Health Department, who will be showing the tape to ninth-graders.

Mr. Arbaugh is affiliated with "Citizens for Sensible Sex Education," which already has run a full page ad in a local newspaper about the what he says is the fallacy of safe sex. "I believe the issue goes much further than the ninth-grade," Mr. Arbaugh said. "Once the video gets in the system, it will be very difficult to get it out of the system."

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