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U.S. News

New York: Suspended Over Naughty Words in HIV Class, Teacher Wins U.S. Ruling

May 25, 2010

On Thursday, a U.S. District Court refused to dismiss a middle school teacher's suit against New York City regarding a sex education class she taught.

On Feb. 6, Faith Kramer taught a state-mandated lesson on HIV/AIDS risks at Staten Island's Intermediate School 72. On the blackboard, she wrote down medical terms for sexual organs, sexual activity, and bodily fluids, court documents say. Kramer then asked her students to name any other terms they might know for the polite words. Some of Kramer's students wrote down the slang terms suggested by students and carried home their notes. At least one parent called the school to complain.

The next day, Principal Peter Macellari requested that school officials investigate the matter, and the Department of Education removed Kramer from the classroom, although the 26-year veteran had a clean disciplinary record. A city investigation found the health and physical education teacher violated a rule against verbal abuse or discipline "by use of language that tends to cause fear, physical or mental distress." However, no formal charges were brought against Kramer, who has said she did not ask students to write down any informal terms, though some did.

In March, Kramer sued the city for $1 million in damages for mental anguish, attorney's fees and loss of extracurricular work.

In overruling the city's request to dismiss the suit, Judge Jack B. Weinstein wrote that Kramer seemed to be following state syllabus guidelines in her classroom instruction. The guidelines say students should be encouraged to use sexual terms that they understand, and to relate those words to the more formal terms: "If students use different terms, make sure they understand the relationship between both sets of terms."

Weinstein wrote that the city violated Kramer's 14th Amendment right to due process by not providing her a reasonable opportunity to know that her lesson plan was inappropriate before she was removed from the classroom. The city investigation also improperly applied the verbal abuse regulations to Kramer's situation, he wrote.

Back to other news for May 2010

Adapted from:
New York Times
05.21.2010; Sharon Otterman

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More on HIV/AIDS-Related Legal Cases

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