Washington--As the federal government stepped up its aids-education efforts in recent weeks, an Education Department booklet being developed to guide educators in teaching about the fatal disease became the focus of a new controversy.
A Congressional subcommittee has taken the unusual step of voting to subpoena a recently completed draft of the booklet, as well as the research and materials used in writing it.
Representative Ted Weiss, a New York Democrat and chairman of the House Human Resources and Intergovernmental Operations Subcommittee, said he called for the subpoena because he feared the department’s publication would supplant a similar guide being developed by the federal Centers for Disease Control--the agency designated by the Reagan Administration to take the lead in school aids-education.
Moreover, aides said, Mr. Weiss suspected the department’s guide would emphasize morality but lack the kind of scientific information that would be available in the federal health agency’s publication.
“To the best of our knowledge,” Mr. Weiss said, “this booklet is being written without any input from the Public Health Service,” of which the cdc is one branch.
“The cdc long ago prepared comprehensive school-health guidelines to aid communities in their development of health curricula,” the lawmaker told a Presidentially appointed aids panel last week. “But to date, Administration infighting has prevented them from being used.”
The cdc was publicly charged with the job of drawing up a set of school aids-education guidelines in March, when the Administration released its long-awaited plan for teaching the public about the disease. But work on the plan had begun months earlier, according to health educators who served as consultants to the federal agency.
After months of delay, the final guidelines may be published “within weeks,” according to Jack Jones, a public-health advisor in cdc’s school-health office.
Research began on the Education Department’s resource guide in4May, a department spokesman said last week.
“I think what the cdc is doing is different from what we’re doing,” said Kevin Childers, a department spokesman. “We’re not out to indoctrinate anyone. Our reason from the beginning has been to assist in the dissemination of information on aids.”
He said the booklet was inspired in part by the success of the department’s pamphlet on drug education, “Schools Without Drugs.” That booklet, which was made available to educators at no cost, became the second most popular government publication ever issued, Mr. Childers said.
The new publication will contain scientific information and recommended educational resources, he added.
Teaching About Morals
The altercation over the booklet is the most recent manifestation of a continuing controversy within the Administration over how much emphasis should be placed on moral issues in school aids-prevention instruction.
Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, an outspoken advocate of teaching that promotes sexual abstinence and monogamy, has called efforts to teach about condoms as a means of preventing the disease “condom-mania.” Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, while also espousing fidelity and abstinence, has championed frank discussion with students about the use of condoms as a “safe sex” practice.
Education Department memos provided to the subcommittee earlier this year have also been critical of the federal health agency’s educational efforts, faulting health officials for promoting promiscuity and failing to mention that condoms are not foolproof.
In a related development, the cdc last week also began awarding $7.2 million in aids-education grants to 15 national associations, 15 state education agencies, and 12 city school districts. A complete listing of the grant recipients was not available last week.
Some of the grants awarded include:
A $302,000 grant to the Council of Chief State School Officers to assist more than 35 state education agencies to foster aids education in public schools. Over the course of the five-year grant, the ccsso will also conduct a nationwide survey on the status of aids education; hold three regional training workshops; and operate a computer bulletin board on aids for its members.
A $154,000 grant to the National Association of State Boards of Education for the purpose of conducting a national campaign to increase the number of state school boards mandating aids education. Nasbe will also develop a policymakers’ guide on aids instruction and assist seven states in developing their own policies on the subject.
A $109,361 grant to the National pta for its campaign to promote aids education in the schools and to teach parents about the disease--with special emphasis on the efforts of local chapters in New York, California, Texas, Florida, and New Jersey.
And last week--the eve of “aids Awareness and Prevention Month"--the Public Health Service officially launched a $4.5-million public-education campaign. The advertising campaign features a series of public-service announcements and television spots--some of which are targeted to racial and ethnic groups, such as Hispanics and blacks, and particular regions.
In what is potentially the most controversial of the spots, an aids volunteer says: “Condoms can be most effective when they’re used correctly, and there is a right way and a wrong way of using one ... The final decision is up to the individual.”
Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat and the sponsor of a bill to promote aids education, reportedly called the new federal promotion “wimpy.”
A version of this article appeared in the October 07, 1987 edition of Education Week as E.D. Draft on AIDS Subpoenaed