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Miss America Angry and Frustrated at School System

June 2, 1993

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ Miss America Leanza Cornett, using her reign as a national platform to teach about AIDS, ran into censorship problems in her native Florida.

Some school officials told her not to use the word ″condom″ while talking to students; others forbade the name of the disease itself.

″When the notice said I couldn’t talk about AIDS or sex, I was floored,″ she said.

Miss Cornett, 21, was told not to mention AIDS when visiting three elementary schools Tuesday in rural Bradford County, southwest of her Jacksonville home.

″I can adhere to any school board’s needs,″ she told a Rotary-Kiwanis meeting following her school visits. ″But I will not be an accomplice to the spread of this disease. People are dying from this disease. I feel guilty that I didn’t speak about it. I don’t want to lay blame, but the school board should feel guilty.″

During her visits to the schools, she presented awards in Chevrolet’s ″Driving for Education″ program and gave 10-minute motivational speeches to students, said Todd Strawn, a businessman who sponsored part of the speaking tour.

″My platform issue is AIDS awareness,″ she told the Rotary-Kiwanis meeting. ″The corporate sponsors and the Miss America organization have supported me throughout my year as I spoke about these issues.″

Bradford Schools Superintendent Jo Ann Rowe said Wednesday school officials are required to notify parents in advance if an outside speaker is going to discuss sexual issues such as AIDS.

The school district’s curriculum introduces the subject of AIDS in the fifth grade and sex education in the sixth grade.

Miss Cornett said it was the first time she had been told not to mention AIDS. In a talk last month to Wolfson High School students in Jacksonville, Miss Cornett was asked not to mention condoms.

Miss Cornett left out the word, but tried to get her message across nonetheless.

Doctors, she said, take precautions when dealing with patients by wearing gloves.

″It is important to put on a glove. Make sure it is a latex glove,″ she said, speaking slowly and precisely.

″I hope you understand what I said,″ she said, winking at students.

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