March 10, 2011
On March 16, Rochester community members will gather at a health forum to voice their opinions on sexual instruction and condom distribution in local high schools.
Malik Evans, school board president, is counting on open-minded participants. "If we approach it the right way, making it a dialogue, not something the district dictates, it will be more effective."
"This is an opportunity to get additional information so the board can make an informed decision," noted Cynthia Elliott, chair of Rochester's Community and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, which is hosting the forum. "We want to get information on what the community wants."
The forum comes on the heels of a January board meeting where representatives of the Monroe County Department of Public Health presented statistics demonstrating that 35 of 78 cases of HIV reported in 2010 involved people below age 25.
During that meeting, Sheila Driscoll, director of Metro Council for Teen Potential (MCTP), proposed a four-point strategy to tackle this crisis. Initiatives encompassed launching health clinics in schools that serve grades seven through 12, which would distribute condoms to sexually active students. Schools serving these grade levels also would be allowed to augment the district's health curriculum by bringing in capable local organizations to provide comprehensive, science-based sex education.
MCTP's plan is backed by more than a dozen groups assisting teens. "We're pleased the board is ... giving people a chance to talk about youth sexual health, the crisis that we're facing and some practical steps to make a difference," said Driscoll. "We think it will lead to some meaningful changes."
To speak during the forum, being held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in the third-floor conference room of the Central Office Building at 131 W. Broad St., telephone 585-262-8525 by noon March 15.