Survey Report

YELL Youth Education Life Line


New York City High School Students' Perceptions of AIDS Education Survey
conducted by YELL (Youth Education Life Line)

Completed June 1997

Contact: Karen Ramspacher
(212) 219-3267
c/o DiNoto Lee


Recent reports by Board of Education administrators suggest that schools are enforcing the mandated AIDS curriculum which includes 6 AIDS lessons each year, condom availability in each school, a plan for publicizing the condom availability program hours, and an HIV/AIDS team at each school to develop and impliment the school's plan for complying with the mandates. Reports that schools comply with these mandates conflict with many students' experiences.

In order to flesh out this conflict we conducted a quantitative survey with students at a cross section of New York City high schools to discover the content, the manner, and the amount of AIDS education they received.


YELL created a simple one-page anonymous self-administered survey. YELL volunteers intercepted students on site at high schools at various hours of the day, i.e. before school, at lunch, during breaks between classes, and after school. All surveys were administered in the last month of the school year for the 1996-97 session (June 3-21). All interviews were conducted by YELL, and tabulated by Hall & Partners.


The cross-section of New York City schools we chose are meant only as a representative sample, using 11 different schools and one community group in 4 out of 5 boroughs (Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Queens). Some schools had more participation than others due to student availability at the time of day of the intercepts.

As YELL is an all-volunteer organization and our resources are limited, this is not a comprehensive study, but meant more as a quantitative look at the AIDS education situation in New York City public high schools.


Key points about the survey respondents:

· All respondents were New York City public high school students.

· A total of 739 students were surveyed at the following high schools (and one community organizations):

Automotive High School
Bayside High School
Brooklyn Technical
Center for Community Alternatives (community group) Chelsea High School
East Side Community High School
Graphic Communication Arts
High School for Environmental Studies
John Adams High School
Seward Park High School
Stuyvesant High School
Walton High School

· The ages were fairly well distributed within the 15-18 year old range, with a few younger and a few older.

10% 12-14 y.o.
26% 15 y.o.
25% 16 y.o.
22% 17 y.o.
14% 18 y.o.
3% 19-20 y.o.

· The grade levels corresponded to the age range, as follows. 0.7% 6th-8th

29% 9th grade
26% 10th grade
22% 11th grade
21% 12th grade

· Gender was equally distributed among respondents.

46% male
47% female


Overall Summary of Findings

According to this survey, the majority of students feel it is important that their schools are involved with AIDS education. Their comments reveal that they are willing to receive the information, and understand the direct benefit to their lives and the lives of their peers.

Many do not know what their schools offer in the way of AIDS education information. If there are condoms available at their school often they do not have the information of where to go, when they are available, or how to get them. In the open-ended questions many students indicated that they did not have the information they needed to use the condoms at their school, which means that the schools need to do a better job of posting and distributing the condom availability information.

The majority of students had not received a condom demonstration, which explains the proper way to use a condom. This reflects the ban on condom demonstrations in the classroom. The implication of this ban is that the vast majority of students are not receiving the life-saving information they need in order to arm themselves properly against HIV infection while having sexual intercourse. It also reveals students' inability to request "personal demonstrations" with individual teachers, often due to embarassment of seeking out special attention in this arena.

Overall, many students feel their schools are making some effort to do AIDS education, but claim it is not enough. In general, schools need to do more to impact more directly on the lives of young people.


Specific Findings

AIDS Education

· Out of 739 students surveyed citywide, 39% did not receive any AIDS education in school in 1996-97.

· Among those who had AIDS education this year, only 10% had the required 6 classes or more.

10% had 6 classes or more
7.4% had a one week seminar
11% had 2 classes
41% had one lecture/class period

Implication: In June, the Board of Education reported that there was only one school out of compliance with the AIDS education mandates as of June 1997. According to the students surveyed, this is not the case. Of the students surveyed, 39% claimed they did not receive any AIDS education at school. And of those who did receive AIDS education at school, 90% are in situations where their schools are not in compliance with BOE mandates of 6 classes per student per year. The direct implication of this is that the majority of schools are out of compliance with the mandates and as a result students are not receiving adequate life-saving information.

Condom Availability

· Among all respondents, 21% said condoms are not available at their school.

Implications: This is in direct violation of Board of Education city-wide mandates which clearly indicate that each school must make condoms available to their students and publicize the information to the entire student body.


There are two potential scenarios for why this is happening.

1) Possibly condoms are in the schools were the students answered they are not, but they are not adequately publicized so students do not know about their availability. This, in essence, makes them unavailable -- if you don't know where to find them you can't get them.

2) The school doesn't have condoms.

- Due to the buraucracy of getting condoms, which needs to be greatly simplified so schools can get the condom supplies they need with ease and in a timely fashion.

- Due to administrative apathy, meaning that the schools are not complying with the mandates: not supplying condoms at all, or allowing their supplies to run out without replenishing them.

- Among students who know where to get condoms, the primary place named was the Spark Program which is seperate from the Board of Education (49% surveyed said they get condoms from the Spark Program in their school).

Implication: The Board of Education is not providing the condoms in school, as mandated by the AIDS curriculum. The burden is falling on the Spark Program.


Condom Demonstrations

- Among those who had AIDS education in school this year, 61% did not receive a condom demonstration.

Implication: This reflects the BOE ban on condom demonstrations in the classroom. It also reveals the students inability or unwillingness to ask for "individual lessons" on how to use a condom. Condom failure rates have been linked to improper usage, which means that we are putting New York City school students at risk unnecessarily by placing barriers to this life-saving information.


Level of Difficulty in Using the Condom Availability Program in School

· 19% of students polled have tried to get a condom at school.

· Of the 116 respondents who tried to get a condom at school, 16% were denied. · Another 10% report being hassled by school personnel when trying to get a condom in school.

Implication: Students who are trying to protect themselves and their peers are being actively prevented from protecting themselves by being denied condoms at school, and by being hassled by school personnel. This reflects poor staff training. The implication is that the Board of Education should include school staff sensitivity training so all school staff understand the need to provide students with access to condoms in a non-judgemental environment.


In an open-ended question asking what problems there are getting condoms in school and why, students wrote-in a variety of responses:

Practical problems

· The school is too low budget to give out condoms. - High School for Environmental Studies (HSES)

· Sometimes the school runs out of condoms.

Judgemental teachers/administration

· They don't give them out because they don't think we should have sex.

· The only problem is the way teachers give you shit when you try to get one. -HSES

· Kids don't want teachers knowing about their personal lives, it can effect the way a teacher thinks about you. - Stuyvesant High School (SHS)

· There are no condoms to get because too many adults believe teens shouldn't have sex but what they fail to realize is that they're only looking at their side, not the teens. - East Side Community High School (ECHS)

· They say that us "so called people" can't use them right, like we're savages. There is too much racism, prejudice, and favoritism in this school. - HSES

Apathy/disdain for students' lives

· They don't have them (condoms) because they don't care. - ECHS


· It's embarassing because people might talk behind your back. -SHS

· It's too public, you get seen by too many people. -SHS

Lack of information

· I don't know where to get them, if there are any at all. We are not informed. -SHS

· People don't know where to get some and are afraid to ask.

Parental denial

· You have to show your ID, parents can block availability. Parents shouldn't have the right to decide if you should be able to get condoms.

· Well, they have this parental consent nonsense - because some right wing parents have the insane notion that if their kids don't get condoms at school they won't have sex.

· You need parental permission - BIG PROBLEM. It's because stupid people lead the program. -SHS

Implication: Students are astute at recognizing the restraints on accessing condoms at school. They see the prejudice and judgement that this stems from, and blame the schools and administration. These obstacles to access need to be eliminated.

48% of all those interviewed said that they do/would use a condom availability program in their school (355 respondents).

Of those who answered the open-ended question asking why/why not they do/ would use the program, 40% expressed safety reasons (protect myself/others, prevent AIDS/disease/save life, it's the right thing to do, teaches you to be safe/informative, important to be prepared). Another 14% credited the fact that "it's free," "accessible at school so makes it easier to be safe."

Even those who don't currently use the condom program recognize that they would use it should the need arise for them. 33% wrote that they were not yet having sex, but if they were they would use the condom program.

Implication: Students feel it's important to have condoms available at school. They want the program and will use it. This supports the need and desire for the program. It is the Board of Education's responsibility to provide the tools for young people to protect themselves properly.

When asked about their feeling about their high school being involved in AIDS education, the majority agree that it's important and are glad the school does it. Overall, 86% feel it's a positive thing to receive this information at school.

58% said "it's important I'm glad they do it"

6.5% said "It's a good idea but I'm uncomfortable with it"

22% said "it's OK"

1.6% said "It's none of their business"

0.9% "I'm opposed to it"

Implication: Students are open to AIDS education at school.



Among New York City public high schools there is non-compliance with the AIDS education mandates on a number of points including: the number of AIDS lessons per year; condom availability in each school; and publicizing the condom availability program hours, location and processes.

· All schools need to be in compliance with the Board of Education's mandated AIDS curriculum.

· Every school needs to have 6 lessons per year for each student, condoms available to students, effective publicity for the condom availability program within its walls, and sensitivity training for staff to stop the hassles that some students are receiving for seeking condoms.

· Finally, it is our recommendation that the Board of Education commission periodic independent surveys of the New York City student body to check for compliance with the AIDS curriculum mandates.


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