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Book covers cover books _ and much more

Book covers decorated with messages of sexual abstinence will be available this fall for Pasco County high schools that want to distribute them to students.

The Pasco School Board voted 4-1 Tuesday night to allow schools to hand out the book covers, designed to promote AIDS-prevention awareness. The Pasco County Medical Society Alliance is providing the covers, which are part of a national program to teach teenagers about AIDS.

Board member Pam Coulter voted against the proposed distribution, saying she wants advisory councils at each high school to discuss the book covers first.

She said she has shown the covers to a lot of people, and all of them thought "the information (on the covers) is very good, the message is very good and kids need to see it."

Yet, she wants to have more input from individual schools, she said. Coulter also said she has questions for district officials who had some objections to the book covers. The two officials are out of town and could not be questioned.

They apparently had been concerned about a proposal to distribute the book covers to middle and high school students. When the planned distribution was limited to high school students, their concerns apparently were cleared up.

Board Chairwoman Marge Whaley said one of the messages is "Don't blow it," and officials feared youngsters in middle schools would focus on the unintended double entendre.

"They're at that age," Whaley said.

Board members agreed that this particular message _ which drew a few snickers from adults in the meeting audience _ is unfortunate, but that the covers in general are a good thing.

"Don't share needles with drugs, ear piercing, tattooing, steroids or blood brother rituals. Respect yourself," says one of the numerous messages on the book covers, which also relay statistical information about acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Referring to the virus that causes AIDS, another message says, "HIV isn't just an adult virus."

Several messages promote abstinence:

"There is no known cure for AIDS! So be smart. Practice abstinence."

"You must remember this. . . . Wait to have intercourse with your marriage partner. Consider HIV testing before marriage because in reality you will be sleeping with everyone that person might have slept with before! Remember to use latex condoms with Nonoxynol-9 _ however, condoms break, condoms slip and nothing guarantees safe sex!"

Coulter worried aloud about what might happen if a high school student babysits for a younger child and leaves out a textbook with one of the book covers on it. What about younger children seeing the messages, which aren't intended for their eyes?

The messages in that case, Coulter said, are inappropriate.

"They've heard it all, unfortunately," said board member Jean Larkin. "I didn't know half these words when I got married."

Coulter wanted to delay a vote until the fall so advisory councils could see the book covers and give opinions. The other four board members thought they should approve the covers and allow each individual school to decide whether to use them.