YELL Action

Students Protest Lack of AIDS Education in Schools

by Katie Szymanski
New York Blade, May 22, 1998, Vol.2 No.21

May 20, 1998, Thirteen members of ACT UP's Youth Education Life Line were arrested Wednesday night at a New York City Board of Education meeting for demonstrating against the board's failure to implement AIDS education programs in public high schools.

YELL members holding placards that read "Students are dying for AIDS education" staged a "die-in" during the meeting. Police removed the activists from the Board of Education building in Brooklyn when they refused to leave, according to a New York City Police Department spokesperson.

"As usual, the board was not interested in hearing what community members had to say," said YELL member Kate Barnhart. "Civil disobedience is the only chance we have to get them to pay attention to us."

NYPD said the arrests, which occurred shorly after 7pm, resulted in 12 summonses for disorderly conduct and one juvenile violation. YELL member Karen Ramspacher said those arrested included five high school students, some parents, and several AIDS activists.

YELL members said they were protesting the board's inadequate enforcement of its own AIDS education mandates. The board's policy is that each high school student should recieve six AIDS education classes each school year and have access to condoms and safe sex information.

"It's the board's own mandates," said Ramspacher. " We're not asking them to do anything amazing, just teach the curriculum."

Last June, YELL conducted a survey of high school students in four different boroughs and found that 39% reported having recieved no AIDS education during the previous school year. More than 20% said they had no access to condoms at their schools, and 16% said their schools had actually denied them condoms. Only 10% of the students surveyed said they had recieved all six of the required AIDS lessons.

Last week, 15 city councilmembers sent a letter to the Board of Education demanding that the city provide AIDS education classes to high school students.

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