ALBANY, N.Y. — The state Board of Regents has voted to require all schools in the state to teach children about AIDS, but delayed action on a manual that would be used as an instructional guide for teachers.
The mandate was approved 14 to 1 after more than two hours of often contentious debate Friday during which several regents doubted whether they should require teaching children about a disease that scientists do not yet fully understand.
Schools across the state, including Roman Catholic schools, must begin formulating AIDS courses. State Education Commissioner Thomas Sobol said he hoped the classes could begin in the spring, but districts that could not devise courses in time could begin later.
"The children have questions," Sobol said. "We must be prepared to answer them."
Under the regulations, children in elementary and secondary schools will be taught the nature of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, how is it transmitted and how it can be prevented. The regulations require schools to stress abstinence as the only sure way to avoid AIDS, which has no known cure.
Children in the lower grades will be taught that AIDS is a communicable disease like measles or chicken pox, while older children will receive more detailed instruction.
AIDS is spread mainly through sexual contact, sharing of needles by intravenous drug abusers and transfusions of blood or blood products.
Exactly how AIDS lessons will be taught will be left to the discretion of the local school districts, who will establish community advisory boards to help them develop their curricula.
Parents will have the option of keeping their children out of class, if they submit a request to school officials in writing and promise to provide AIDS instruction in their homes, officials said.