High Court Rejects Suit On Explicit AIDS Talk
The U.S. Supreme Court last week rejected an appeal from Massachusetts parents who objected to an explicit high school assembly about AIDS that their children were required to attend.
The 1992 assembly at Chelmsford (Mass.) High School has been cited by religious conservatives as an example of public schools going too far in presenting sex education that conflicts with the religious and moral beliefs of parents.
The Chelmsford district hired a company called Hot, Sexy and Safer Productions for the streetwise AIDS talk after screening a promotional video. District officials later said the presentation went too far. The presenter used such terms as "orgasm face" and referred to a particular anatomical feature as "Mr. Happy."
The parents of two 15-year-old boys who attended the assembly sued the company and the district, alleging that the presentation violated their right of free exercise of religion and their right to direct their children's upbringing. They sought both monetary damages and assurance that no such assembly would be required again.
The parents, who were represented by the Rutherford Institute, a Charlottesville, Va.-based religious organization, lost in a federal district court and in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit. The appeals court ruled in October that parents have no right to "dictate individually what the schools teach their children." (See Education Week, Dec. 13, 1995.)
In their appeal to the high court, the parents argued "it is arrogant to conclude that schools 'know best' for children in matters involving sexual conduct and morality."
The justices on March 4 declined without comment to hear the case, Brown v. Hot, Sexy and Safer Productions Inc. (Case No. 95-1158).
The Department of Health and Human Services last week announced a campaign to educate the public about children's mental-health problems.
The centerpiece of the four-year, $2.6 million effort is a toll-free telephone number that the public can use to request publications and referrals to local and national resources and organizations dealing with the mental health of children and teenagers. The campaign will also finance brochures, posters, and public-service announcements for print and radio.
The effort, Caring for Every Child's Mental Health, is part of the $60 million Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children program. Its goals include helping families, educators, service providers, and others recognize problems such as depression, autism, schizophrenia, and eating disorders.
For information on the campaign, call (800) 789-2647.