Recently in Wisconsin, a law was enacted that required that any sex education in public schools be comprehensive. The law was supported and lobbied by Planned Parenthood, who long has been arguing for comprehensive sexual education and against abstinence-only programs.
However one ambitious district attorney, Scott Southworth of Juneau County, Wisconsin, took it upon himself to inform public school teachers in his jurisdiction that if they comply with the state law, they may face fines and jail time:
Southworth warned that teaching a student how to properly use contraceptives would be contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor punishable by up to nine months behind bars and a $10,000 fine. He said it would be promoting sex among minors, who are not legally allowed to have sex in Wisconsin.1Richmond, Todd. (2010, April 9). "DA’s sex ed warning befuddles Wis. teachers, kids". Associated Press.
Obviously this DA doesn’t realize that where local laws and State laws conflict, the State law wins. So if the teachers comply with State laws in their handling of teaching sexual education, they will be immune from prosecution by this district attorney. Plus the State is generally able to provide for a minimum standard for education within that State through their respective departments of education.
Plus if informing teenagers about sex in school is a punishable crime, then it is also a crime when parents inform teenagers about sex. Can you imagine parents being arrested on child endangerment or "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" charges for informing their teenagers about sex?
The District Attorney is correct in that teenagers under the age of 16 in Wisconsin are not legally able to engage in sexual activity2Wisconsin Statutes 948.02(1)(e), but it is happening anyway. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, through their Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, in 2007 approximately 64.4% of high school seniors and 50.4% of high school juniors reported previously having sex, and 48.6% of seniors and 39.3% of juniors reported being sexually active (within a 95% interval of confidence).
The numbers are lower for sophomores and freshmen. In Wisconsin 38.2% of sophomores and 26.1% of freshmen reported being sexually active. Meanwhile, 28.2% of sexually active women in Wisconsin are using the pill, and only 61.4% of sexually active students are using condoms.
Southworth’s move is also not supported by logic.
Teenagers are taught about the risks and consequences associated with illicit drug use, even though everyone is barred by Federal laws and regulations from possessing many substances like marijuana and cocaine. Teenagers are taught about risks with drinking even though anyone under age 21 is barred from possessing alcohol. Teenagers are also taught about the risks of tobacco products even though anyone under age 18 is barred from possessing them.
This DA’s move is supported by Pro-Life Wisconsin, who I’ve mentioned in a previous article is attacking contraception as merely a stepping stone on their quest to outlaw abortion. Matt Sande, the Director of Legislative Affairs for Pro-Life Wisconsin said that every district should follow Southworth’s lead. Other anti-abortion groups have apparently also said they support the move.
Obviously Southworth is trying to scare teachers out of teaching sexual education at all, and that would be a major step back for students and public education in general. Does he think that by not teaching teenagers about sex that they just won’t do it?Teens are exposed to sex in many aspects of their lives. And as parents likely aren’t teaching their teens about sex, if they’re not given a comprehensive education in school, how are they going to get one? Google for it? Yeah that’ll work just fine…
Personally Juneau County voters need to oust this District Attorney in the next election, or if there’s a way to oust him sooner, it needs to be employed.
If this district attorney is going to threaten teachers with prosecution for giving a comprehensive sexual education, something that is against his beliefs, what’s to stop him from threatening biology teachers who have the audacity to teach the theory of evolution, even in exclusion to other "theories"?
This District Attorney is trying to test the waters to see what he can get away with. Hopefully Juneau County voters are paying attention and won’t let him succeed.