Policy Change Decried; Officials: STD Educational Program Will Suffer From New Rules in Connecticut
May 9, 2011
Parental consent for an STD education course for 10th-grade Manchester High School students has changed, and some city officials say the policy shift means the course will reach fewer students.
Launched last spring, the pilot course is taught by the town Health Department in collaboration with the state Department of Public Health. It includes information about STDs, including graphic slides; free STD testing for all high school students; abstinence; and individual counseling. The course has already been presented for the current school year.
Earlier this year, a presentation about the program before the city Board of Directors (BOD) characterized it as an opt-out course. The opt-out policy was changed to an opt-in approach, requiring the consent of parents for their child to participate, confirmed Manchester Health Director Maryann Cherniak Lexius.
School leaders fielded concerns about the program, and "we agreed to the recommended change that required a proactive decision on the part of the parent(s)/guardian, and required signed permission for attendance to the educational portion of the program," Cherniak Lexius wrote in a May 2 letter to BOD.
At a May 3 meeting, BOD member Cheri Pelletier said she is disappointed the policy was changed from that originally presented. School Board Chair Chris Pattacini said parents voiced concern about not knowing the pilot's content, and he spoke with school administrators about tightening the consent policy.
BOD Member Mart Tweedle said the opt-in approach will result in those kids at greatest risk not participating in the course. Fewer students attended the course this year, though it is not clear the policy is to blame, said Cherniak Lexius.
Cherniak Lexius said she will ask for the pilot to be incorporated into the regular high school curriculum.
05.05.2011; Jesse Leavenworth
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.
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