In light of the unsurprising revelation that abstinence-only education doesn’t work, Wisconsin recently enacted a law that requires schools that teach sexual education courses to teach students age appropriate and medically accurate information on subjects like birth control and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. In addition the law also requires that students be taught to recognize signs of abuse and how the use of alcohol can affect decision-making.
Given the recent resurgence of teen pregnancy rates, and the rise of sexually transmitted diseases among young people, Wisconsin was quite proactive, and one would think the citizens of the state would be pleased about this, as government in general seldom takes positive, applause-worthy steps where such delicate matters are concerned.
But Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth isn’t impressed. In fact, he is appalled to the point of issuing a letter to the five school districts within his jurisdiction, threatening to bring criminal charges against any teacher who complies with this new state law.
Southworth informed school officials in his letter that the new state law promotes the sexual assault of minors and that teachers will be charged with misdemeanor or felony delinquency of a minor if they teach to the new standard, with punishments ranging from nine months in jail to six years of prison time.
Needless to say, school district officials in Juneau County are proceeding with caution. Wisconsin law requires those schools that offer sexual education to comply with the new mandate, but DA Southworth’s rather interesting interpretation of the new law is a complication they hadn’t anticipated. Superintendent Tom Andres of the New Lisbon School District told AOL News, “I don’t intend to put our teachers in harm’s way.”
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services disagrees with the Juneau County DA’s take on the Healthy Youth Act, which allows parents to opt their children out of the program, just as they could under previous state law. The DHS issued the following statement through department spokesman, Seth Boffeli:
“The law provides comprehensive, medically accurate, unbiased and age-appropriate information, and teaches teens about the potential negative consequences of their choices. The law helps identify abuse and prevent teen pregnancy. Study after study has shown that abstinence-only education does not work. The Healthy Youth Act updates our standards to reflect the health risks teens face today.”
DA Southworth, who has made a habit out of using his office to push political agendas, has warned school districts that the Healthy Youth Act will force students and teachers to discuss controversial issues, such as homosexuality and transgender and transsexual people. He feels this will compromise the religious and family values of the people of Juneau.
Public schools tread a fine line when it comes to sex ed courses. Parents are understandably unsettled by the idea that their children are sexual beings who will one day engage in sexual relations, and they want their kids to emulate their own value system and not that of someone else. However, facts are just facts, and it’s up to parents to be aware of what is being taught and to superimpose their religious beliefs or value systems on top of what their children learn at school, if necessary.
Given the recent findings about the appalling lack of knowledge teens and young adults in this country have about sex, it seems a disservice to remove sex ed from those school districts actually teaching it. Parents may be uneasy about schools teaching kids about sex, but apparently not uneasy enough to instruct their children themselves. Factual and age appropriate education about sex is important, and schools are a better forum for it than popular culture, social media and peer tutoring.
No decisions have yet been reached in Juneau County about how to implement the new law.