Friday, March 17, 2006

Crayons, snacks ... & HIV

Kindergartners will learn about virus come Monday


Along with the ABC's, kindergartners will now learn about HIV.

Beginning Monday, kindergartners in public schools will be told that HIV is a "germ" and "not easy to get."

The kids also will learn that HIV could lead to AIDS, which is hard to "get well" from, according to the city's new HIV/AIDS curriculum.

The changes are required by state law - but some parents and teachers fear kindergartners are too young to talk about the deadly disease.

"I don't think it is appropriate. It's scary for kids in kindergarten," said a Manhattan mom whose daughter attends kindergarten at Public School 166 on the upper West Side.
"How do you talk about AIDS without talking about sex and drugs?" she asked.
Elementary school teachers in all grades have been instructed to teach beginning next week from the updated lessons, which include a project that tells kindergartners to play "doctors" and discuss HIV.

Teachers won't mention that HIV is transmitted through sexual contact until students reach the fourth grade. At that time, teachers will provide little specifics, telling kids, "When you are older you will learn more."

Many parents got letters this week from their children's schools alerting them to the changes. Parents can opt their children out of the mandatory HIV discussion by writing a letter to the principal.

School officials said they have been required to teach students about HIV and AIDS for the past decade, but the specific language in the new lessons was created in December.

"The curriculum is absolutely developmentally appropriate and contains positive messages about staying healthy," said Education Department spokeswoman Kelly Devers.
Still, some elementary school teachers said they don't think students younger than 8 will understand what they are being told about the fatal virus.

"You can tell a second-grader there are different illnesses, colds and viruses, and they'll understand. But they don't understand the difference between cancer and HIV," said a fourth-grade teacher in Queens.

A third-grade teacher in Manhattan plans to ignore the new curriculum.
"They might understand to some extent," the teacher said. "But in kindergarten and first grade, it's impossible."

Originally published on March 17, 2006

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