YELL
Youth Education Life Line

 

For Immediate Release:
December 1, 1993

AIDS ACTIVISTS PROTEST CORTINES' OPT-OUT PLAN.
WILL DISTRIBUTE CONDOMS AT MANHATTAN H.S.

NEW YORK CITY--On the morning of December 1, World AIDS Day, members of YELL, the Youth Education Life Line of ACT UP/NY, will distribute condoms and HIV prevention information to students outside Manhattan's LaGuardia High School. LaGuardia is located on Amsterdam Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets. The condom distribution will begin at 7:30 AM.

YELL is taking this direct action in response to the announcement by Schools Chancellor Ramon Cortines that he will introduce a parental opt-out amendment to the condom availability program currently in effect in New York City public high schools. Chancellor Cortines' opt-out amendment would allow parents to bar their children from receiving condoms. Under the current program, all students may request condoms and counseling from designated staff in each high school.

YELL opposes the opt-out amendment because it will deny lifesaving access to condoms for many young people. Studies show that 80% of all students become sexually active by the time they graduate from high school, but the opt-out amendment denies the reality that many teenagers are unable to communicate with parents about their sexual lives. The very students who are most at risk for infection could be denied condoms under the opt-out provision.

"Students aren't asking their parents' permission to have sex. Why should they need permission to protect themselves from infection?" says YELL member Sarah Kunstler, a senior at Manhattan's Stuyvesant High School.

Many, including Chancellor Cortines, have framed the issue as a compromise between public health and parents' rights. YELL disputes this. "Cortines has presented the parental opt-out as a compromise," says YELL member Wayne Fischer. "But for the student who gets infected with HIV--because he or she didn't have a condom--it's no compromise at all." Fischer, a person living with AIDS, is a former teacher at Martin Luther King High School in Manhattan.

Wednesday morning's action will be the first in an ongoing campaign by YELL to make condoms and accurate HIV prevention information available to students in the public schools. Says YELL member John Won: "If the Board of Ed isn't going to do the job right, we'll do it ourselves."

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