What My Florida Middle School Taught Me About HIV and AIDS

14 years ago, my conservative school district taught a curriculum that may now be contested

C. E. Janecek
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readSep 18, 2023

--

An image of a plastic human anatomy model showing half a human face and half a skull with the various organs and veins exposed.
Photo by Nhia Moua on Unsplash

I had a relatively insular middle school experience in a conservative Florida county. Most of my classmates were white and had Republican parents. Chick-fil-A was—and still is—the community’s hub. It was 2009 — Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would be around for two more years and marriage equality wouldn’t become federal law until 2015. But by 2023 standards, my middle school education might be called radical and inappropriate.

Everyone adored my middle school science teacher. She used to be a field researcher and herpetologist. She was a cancer survivor. She treated all of her students with respect. She also brought a baby corn snake to class, which sealed the deal. Most importantly, she believed in our ability to learn about serious subjects at the appropriate age level. I still admire her for keeping all of us pre-teens semi-serious while showing us the snake’s cloaca (a reptile’s body part they use for both excrement and reproduction).

One day, she announced that our curriculum would be on hold for one class period. She had instructions from the principal that there would be a school-wide AIDS Education Day. I’m sure there was a standardized…

--

--

C. E. Janecek
Human Parts

I'm a writer, editor & book reviewer with an MFA from Colorado State. I have thoughts on poetry, speculative fiction, memoirs, and more!