Let Carroll Teens Hear the Message

July 14, 1992

Carroll County's Board of Education votes tomorrow on whether the videotape "Teen AIDS in Focus" will be shown in ninth-grade classes next school year. Due to the transparently orchestrated public furor over this nine-minute video, board members may have lost sight of the real issues.

The issue is not safe sex or abstinence. The issue is making sure the county's teen-agers don't jeopardize their lives.

Not surprisingly, Carroll County teens behave like other U.S. youngsters. Recent surveys indicate about 50 percent of unmarried 15-to-19-year-old girls and 60 percent of unmarried boys of the same age are sexually active. Despite the best efforts of parents and schools, over half of Carroll County teens will likely have intercourse before marriage.

Showing the video does not mean the board is abandoning its policy of emphasizing sexual abstinence in its sex education curriculum. All other portions of the sex education curriculum -- which stress abstinence -- will remain the same. In an ideal world, teen-agers don't have sex. In an ideal world, airplanes don't crash. But before each flight, all passengers are briefed on safety procedures should there be a crash.

Of course, the best way to avoid AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases is to abstain. But teens should be informed on precautions, and they will be. Even if this video is not shown, the county's teachers will still discuss the use of condoms and other measures to avoid infections.

When it comes to AIDS, Carroll County has been very fortunate. Only 22 cases -- including 15 deaths -- have been reported since 1981. Education is the best way to keep that number low.

Contrary to assertions of its opponents, the video promotes abstinence. There are a number of emotional images of real, sexually active youths dying from AIDS who could have easily come from Carroll County classrooms. Students will have no trouble relating to the people in this video. The image of a dying boy saying that he confused sex for love is a powerful testimonial for abstinence. The message of this video is that one very real consequence of teen-age sex can be death -- a message the county's ninth-graders should hear.

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