AIDS activists distribute condoms to teen art students School's director calls event 'dreadful'

September 02, 1992|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

On the opening day of school, the last thing most students are interested in is one more lesson.

But yesterday some students at the Baltimore School for the Arts were happy about the short course in safe sex they received from ACT UP/Baltimore, an AIDS activist group.

As the students were dismissed from the first day of classes, ACT UP members stood across the street from the school and handed out condoms and brochures.

But the director of the specialized city-run high school at 712 Cathedral St. in Mount Vernon was upset by ACT UP's presence, terming it "dreadful."

"I don't like the idea"

"I don't like the idea that adults descend on kids that way," said director David Simon, who watched ACT UP members talking to students from the steps of the school for performing and visual arts.

"Kids are being treated in an unfair way when they're being accosted on the street," he said.

Mr. Simon said the School for the Arts has in past years held several assemblies on sex and was "not deaf to the issues outside of school."

He also derided the timing of ACT UP's appearance on the opening day of school, saying it was "disruptive at a time when we want kids to get settled in."

But some students welcomed the safe sex pamphlets and the condoms.

"I think it's really good," said Corrie Pond, a 15-year-old sophomore voice student. "I think they're trying to help kids. People don't talk to kids enough about sex in schools."

"It's pretty sad they have to come out here on the sidewalk and do this. I think it'd be better if they'd be allowed to hand out condoms inside the schools," added Brian West, 15,another voice student.

One 16-year-old junior art major who said she was sexually active took several condoms and exclaimed, "I'm going to my boyfriend's tonight!"

She said she tried to practice safe sex but condoms are "pretty expensive. I don't have any money. My boyfriend doesn't have any money."

ACT UP handed out condoms and a brochure including explicit tips on safe sex illustrated with crude cartoons because the sex education students are getting in schools "is not enough," said Mark Shaw, a spokesman for the group.

The School for the Arts was the first of several city high schools at which the group, which has about 30 members locally, plans similar appearances, he said.

Glyn Hughes was one of a half-dozen ACT UP members distributing information and condoms as well as tabulating responses to a brief questionnaire on teen sexual activity and the issue of distributing condoms in schools. "I don't think any of the students have been offended by the questions," he said.

Members of ACT UP -- the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power -- originally were on the sidewalks directly in front of the art school but moved across the street without incident when asked by school security police not to block the entrance to the building.

City schools do not distribute condoms to students.

But clinics in nine schools run by the city health department distribute them to students who have been identified as high risks for sexually transmitted diseases or multiple pregnancies or both.

Nat Harrington, public relations director for city schools, was nonplused when told yesterday afternoon of ACT UP's plans.

"It's a free country"

"We don't want students to be unduly imposed upon. But it's a free country. We can't control what happens outside the school," he said.

Also yesterday, an ACT UP group in Wisconsin dropped scores of condoms from a plane on a Wisconsin maximum-security prison, but winds scattered many of them into a nearby neighborhood.

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