Letter to the Editor as Printed in the Washington Times on 8/18/08 LETTER TO EDITOR: D.C. on the wrong track

The Tuesday Aug. 12 Commentary column "AIDS amnesia in America" by Susan Blumenthal and Melissa Shive highlights important statistics about the AIDS epidemic in the District as well as the need for more prevention education. Yet, although they offer no prevention plan, it is clear where they are coming from: Abstinence programs are "ineffective"; prevention programs must be "evidence based," which is code language for "Programs that directive promote abstinence need not apply."

The District is a prime example of what has gone very wrong when it comes to preventing HIV/AIDS in the United States.

Programs that encourage and support youths in their decision to abstain from sex (22 percent more high school youth in the city are abstaining from sex than 14 years ago) have been evicted from D.C. public schools by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Programs that promote two-parent families and sexual abstinence are seen as a threat by those who promote the normalization of same-sex relationships. I was told by Richard Nyankori and Chad Ferguson in Miss Rhee's office that my opposition to now approved health standards that specify teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation beginning in sixth grade meant that our program would not be welcome in D.C. Public Schools. This was after ULTRA Teen Choice was told in November to cease operations in D.C. Public Schools.

In 2007, D.C. Council members David A. Catania and Mary M. Cheh promoted a bill that mandates that all 11-year-old girls attending D.C. public schools receive a three-shot vaccine regimine for human papilloma virus unless their parents opt out. Yet Mr. Catania had no interest in meeting youth from the ULTRA Teen Choice program who wanted to talk about sexual abstinence.

The Board of Education recently proposed draconian new Home School Regulations that would have given D.C. officials the right to enter the homes of parents who where home-schooling and observe the instruction of their children. If "the OSSE determines... that a student is not receiving regular instruction that meets the standards of this chapter and as established by the OSSE," then the parent could be required to send their child to public school. It is entirely plausible that if they were deemed not to be following the D.C. standards (such as not teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation) their children would have to be sent back to public schools. Fortunately, these provisions were removed after the almost unanimous opposition of scores of home-schooling parents who attended a hearing in March. We must ask why these regulations were proposed in the first place. Could it have something to do with the fact that those who home-school often have strong moral and religious convictions and would be more likely to oppose the normalization of same-sex relationships?

I was asked by Mr. Nyankori what our organizations´ policy is on gay rights, implying that if you are not emphatically pro-gay, you are not welcome in D.C. public schools.

No effective HIV/AIDS prevention strategy can be devised as long as D.C. politicians and school officials continue to push pro-gay policies instead of policies that look at what is best for all D.C. children and families.


Urban Life Training & Reality Assessment (ULTRA)

Teen Choice


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