Durham School Board Bans Edgy AIDS Committee Campaign
School officials in southeast Ontario's Durham Region have banned two designs promoting a local AIDS awareness campaign. Created by teens to educate peers about safer sex, the "cat and rooster" campaign was launched last fall by the AIDS Committee of Durham Region.
The Durham District School Board prohibited two campaign designs from its schools: one with the words "Cover your" with an image of a rooster, and another advising teens to "Protect Your" above a cat's image. The campaign includes a series of posters, T-shirts, and informational pamphlets explaining how HIV is transmitted and how to use a condom. It lists contact information for testing services and online resources oriented to youths. The T-shirts and posters feature HIV/AIDS statistics and the committee's website address.
The Central East Ontario region has one of the highest new HIV infection rates among youths, said Adrian Betts, the committee's executive director.
When the cat and rooster appeared at a youth sexuality forum at J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate in Ajax, the principal complained to the school board. The board then informed AIDS Committee the designs were not welcome in schools, said Lindsay Chartier, a committee youth outreach worker. The designs were not cleared by the board, violated the dress code, and caused disruption, said Andrea Pidwerbecki, a board spokesperson.
"Speaking to youth in clinical language doesn't get through to them, but something that's humorous and fun does," Chartier said. "The response to this has been huge."
The committee struggles to keep the T-shirts in stock, and some students upload the graphics as their Facebook profile picture. The campaign has not drawn complaints from social service and public health agencies enlisted to display materials. The committee, which directly pled its case to no avail, has launched an online petition ahead of an appeal to trustees.