Thing 1, in 3rd grade, brought home a note last week that said:
"HIV/AIDS Presentations will be held on Tuesday, February 8th. Listed below is the time schedule for grades 3 - 6. Each presentation will only last approximately 50 minutes. All presentations will be held ina classroom of the particular grade level. Permission slips were distributed for all students in the registration packets. Thank you."
AIDS? You're teaching my 9 year old about AIDS!?
It kind of bubbled to the bottom of my priority pot, until the night before when I saw the note on the bulletin board of "Things I Need To Deal With."
I logged on the district website and was horrified to see an outline of related school topics mandated for discussion which included naming male and female body parts, and explaining the mechanics of how to get pregnant...
(In retrospect the list was a broad outline for all sex-related discussions for the whole district. A break down of what grade level would be discussing what topics would have been REALLY HELPFUL.)
Anyway I nearly swallowed my tongue. Thing 1 is NOT ready for any sort of frank discussion of sex. She is desperately trying to not grow up any faster than she has to. She was very unhappy to be turning 9, she wanted to remain 8 years old a few more years. Which is fine with me.
The morning of the presentation I tried to briefly tell the girls over breakfast that there might be some movie and a discussion in Thing 1's class about a disease called AIDS, which is a pretty serious disease but no, little kids don't get it. No, honey Mommy and Daddy won't get it, and I could already see panic starting to rise in Thing 1's face so I quickly wrapped it up and changed the subject. Thing 1 has been having a nightmare that Hubby and I are eaten by a shark and lately his and my safety is her top priority.
I called the school after I dropped off the kids to see if I had signed the permission slip with the registration packet. I was told the whole class was going, but I could speak with the principal. The principal told me this is a 'district mandated' and 'required' program, that I could come in and sign a waiver if I felt it absolutely necessary, but eventually if she stays in this school she will be required to see this program. I was really upset on the phone with the principal, not wanting them to tell my 9 year old about AIDS, yet embarrassed to be apparently the only parent who feels this way, and frustrated and angry and I started tearing up. The principal was very kind, and assured me all parents don't want their kids to grow up so fast... she concluded by inviting me to come in and sit with Thing 1 and watch the presentation with her.
The timing wasn't very good, I had planned some other things - including my a shower and washing my hair during that time frame. But I threw on a hat and ran over to the school stinky as I was.
Two student nurses, probably in their 20s, ran the class. There was a movie, a power point, a play, and a question and answer period. There was one other parent, and the teachers. Thing 1 sat next to me.
Sex was never discussed. It was all about germs, viruses, and diseases. The most risky topic that was brought up was not touching anything that comes out of someone else's body, including blood, saliva, vomit, urine, stuff like that, and not letting anyone else touch yours. Lots of emphasis on washing your hands, and a demonstration of what to do if you have a scratch or bloody nose, and how to help someone with a scratch or bloody nose (don't touch it, the person whose blood it is should throw away their own tissues/paper towels). Cover your mouth with something when you sneeze, wash your hands. And never touch a medical needle you find anywhere, get an adult. It was mildly humorous in an appropriate 3rd grade level way - the little girl in the movie showing what to do with a bloody nose also demonstrated how you should NOT go running crazy down the hall screaming. Stuff like that.
The play was a demonstration of how the body fights diseases, with the kids dressed up to act out the parts of the blood that identify the disease, attack the disease, and clean up. There are scout cells, the memory cell, the commander cells, the clean up cells, stuff like that. One little girl was the HIV cell, who teamed up with the commander cell, and then none of the other cells would do their jobs.
That was it.
The question and answer period was rather innocent, how far does it shoot out when you sneeze, and what happens if you change a baby's diaper and get poop on your hands, etc. My favorite question was "Are there new disease in space that we don't know about yet?" Yes, I expect there are.
I want my kids to know about sex, I don't want it to be mysterious and frightening. I intend to teach them about it, and I expect them to have some instruction about it in the school. Just not when they're 9. Safety is important when they're 9, sex is not.
In the end I was satisfied that the presentation had been appropriate, it was all about disease prevention. That's fine.
I was also frustrated that the flyer and the district page had been so cagey, and told me enough to get me in a tizzy, but not enough to really explain what was going on. At some point in the phone conversation could the principal have emphasized to me, "this is about disease prevention and washing your hands and not picking up needles. This is not about sex." No, instead I get to work myself up to a tizzy, and lose an hour of my day making sure my 9 year old isn't going to have nightmares for the next year.
But I'm glad I found out for sure.