The Carroll County school board's decision this week to exclude the video "Teen AIDS in Focus" as part of the curriculum for ninth-grade sex education classes is disturbing for a number of reasons.
First, the board is excluding an extremely effective teaching tool. Videos can be a powerful means of communication, transporting people to places they otherwise may never see. Certainly the videotaped testimony of a teen-ager infected with AIDS is more convincing than having a teacher simply state that AIDS is a deadly disease. If this particular video is unacceptable, then the school system should locate an acceptable one.
Moreover, by recommending against using the video, School Superintendent R. Edward Shilling may have inadvertently broadcast the wrong message. A number of parents who objected to the video said if it were shown, they would withdraw their children from the entire 30-day family life program. Given the choice of not using the 12-minute video or having hundreds of ninth-graders miss the entire sex education program, Mr. Shilling said it would be better not to use the video. But the school board should make it very clear that threats -- made by parents whose aim may be to rid the system of sex education courses entirely -- will not prevail. The school system's message should be explicit: If parents object to the sex education curriculum, they will have to withdraw their children. There will always be something to object to in a 30-day course that deals with such sensitive topics as birth control, sexually transmitted diseases and human reproduction.
County parents who want an informative sex education curriculum in the schools have an obligation to themselves and their children to make their wishes known. Only a dozen or so have chosen to remove their children from sex education classes in the past year, so we can assume that most Carroll County parents are content with the current program. Unfortunately, the parents who don't object to the lessons and materials now in use were surprisingly silent on this controversy over the video.