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Wisconsin Sex Ed Teachers Face Arrest

Wisconsin Sex Ed Teachers Face Arrest

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.

 

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153 comments

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10:45AM PDT on Aug 2, 2010

I'm surprised if there's no criminal charge for people who use their public-trust office to try to coerce others into breaking laws. If there isn't a criminal charge for this, there aught to be --- because this DA needs to see serious jail-time.

8:05PM PDT on Jul 1, 2010

My parents taught me that abstinence was the only moral form of birth control. Unfortunately, since they were too embarassed to teach me anything about sex themselves and since the school didn't teach it either, I had no clue what it was that I was supposed to be abstaining from. And I'm welling to bet that lots of children of abstinence-only believers are engaging in dangerous sexual activities simply because they have no idea what it is they're doing....

2:53AM PDT on Jun 20, 2010

Thank you!

8:33PM PDT on Apr 14, 2010

Thanks for this article.

Abstinence is still the best. Our young people need to be taught to value themselves. But, we must realize we live in a world where children are rushed to become adults. They need to know about anatomy at an appropriate age and be warned about STDs, etc. Unplanned pregnancy can completely change their lives and they need to know how to prevent it, if they do choose to be active.

8:12PM PDT on Apr 14, 2010

Of course sex education should be taught in schools, to make sure kids have the opportunity of getting the facts and correct information from somewhere. Maybe sex education would be more palatable to some if it was called Wholistic Health education, or Life Facts or something without the scary 'S' word.

What I don't understand is how this DA is able to intimidate school officials with threats of charges if they OBEY the law, by introducing the classes.

The article states "DA Southworth's rather interesting interpretation of the new law is a complication they hadn't anticipated"

So what is his interpretation? Is his interpretation within the meaning of the law? Does the wording of the law need tightening so it cannot be misinterpreted?

If the law is on the schools' side, I am a little confused as to why they don't just band together and tell him to get on with own job, and let them get on with theirs. A little more information needed here I think.....

12:38PM PDT on Apr 14, 2010

kids should be taught safe sex because abstinence doesn't work as well. however, abstinence should be encouraged since it's the only way you can be 100% sure you won't get STDs or a baby.

4:01PM PDT on Apr 13, 2010

What is needed is for people in general to learn that sex is sacred;after all it was God who invented it. We need not so much learn how but when is it morally right and how to protect ourselves from those who want to take advantage of others for their own selfish desires.

3:39PM PDT on Apr 13, 2010

Yes, sex education should be taught to all children and it should be mandatory. Why? There are many children who will never, ever learn anything from their parents for many reasons, such as embarrassment, off-topic, etc. How are they supposed to learn? From their peers or from the street? Sexuality is a fact of life and we all have bodies and eventually will want to explore because of sexual needs. Doctors or nurses, guided with properly trained counselors, should teach these courses and make themselves available for private questions. The time for this to happen is now - not wen there are more pregnancies and more promiscuity.

2:18AM PDT on Apr 13, 2010

Excuse me? Does he not have enough real criminals to prosecute or is this just another bad political campaign?

1:27AM PDT on Apr 13, 2010

after reading this and thinking 'yet another cuckoo screwing up sensible and much-needed legislation" I decided to google Scott Southworth and found that he is real hero. While in Iraq he visited a children's home and bonded with a young boy with cerebral palsy. After much red tape he was able to adopt the boy and bring him home. He is a bachelor but his mother is also very involved in her grandson's life.
There is a lesson here and it just could be that even extremely kind people can be cuckoos. Well, we knew that already. If you read the whole article you will learn that Southworth is also an evangelical lutheran and I am wondering (I don't live in the states nymore) if most of these evangelical churches share the same backward views or is it just a fringe? Anyway, I just wanted to share this info with...I'm sure the people of his town know all bout it and it makes it all the more confusing and difficult to deal with. The article was on titled 'Miracles' after U.S. soldier decides to adopt Iraqi.

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Julie M. Rodriguez Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work... more
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