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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
NEW YORK: City School Board Discusses Sex Education, Condom Availability
Tiffany Lankes
December 20, 2011
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (12.16.11) - Tuesday,

Rochester City School District board members on Thursday began considering whether to allow access to condoms at high school clinics. In addition, school officials say the board is weighing changes to the comprehensive sex education curriculum to enable teachers to hold more in-depth discussions with students. Board members, who have been split on some of the issues, began the discussion after months of public feedback. A vote on condom access is expected in January. Parents would retain the right to opt their children out of the programs.

"The concept is: We need to do more than just make condoms available," said Willa Powell, a board member. "We need to step up the instructional piece of it." Among the district's ninth- through 12th-graders, 58 percent report being sexually active, including 21 percent who have had at least four partners, according to a youth behavior survey. Nearly half of reported HIV cases in 2010 were among people under age 25, health officials said. Since January, the Monroe County Department of Public Health and the Metro Council for Teen Potential have been urging the board to act to drive down city youth STD and pregnancy figures.

Thursday's discussion mostly covered cost and the logistics of how condoms could be accessed. Potential changes to the sex education program are not yet clear. The district has been working with community health groups to better utilize their resources in the classroom.

The district could allow more in-depth lessons on areas where students have the most questions, said one teacher interviewed. Some students say the lessons, which begin in fourth grade and continue through high school, could be more involved or begin earlier.