January 11, 2011
Fallout continues from AIDS Services for the Monadnock Region's recent distribution of safe-sex kits that included condoms, fruit-flavored lubricant, and candy at area high schools. ASMR Director Susan MacNeil said Thursday the organization will seek administrator approval before bringing the kits to high schools, and it will talk with school officials about letting parents opt their children out of ASMR presentations.
Last month, officials at Monadnock Regional High School gave written approval allowing the kits to be handed out during a World AIDS Day program. But school district board member Bruce Barlow said officials were unaware of the kits' contents. ASMR has since been barred from presenting HIV/AIDS programs at Monadnock High, the Union-Leader reported earlier.
Barlow wrote in an e-mail, "If [ASMR] had had the grace to display the AIDS quilt and shut up, it would have remained a 'learning moment,' where students could take away their own message, rather than converting it into a 'teaching moment,' where the lesson [safe sex] is beaten into them through the kits."
In November, ASMR passed out 200 kits during a program at Keene High School, said MacNeil. Though a team of Keene teachers approved the distribution, Principal Alan Chmiel halted the giveaways upon learning the kits' contents; the program continued.
"The Monadnock Regional School District does not encourage sex," Barlow stressed, and is reviewing its policies to prevent similar incidents.
ASMR said future kits will no longer include candy. "The piece of candy is just a piece of candy," said MacNeil, responding to charges from critics that it diminished the importance of safe sex or symbolized the enticement of children into sexual activity. "That's the last thing we wanted." Condoms and lubricant have historically been part of the kits, she added.