April 7th, 2010
11:21 AM ET

DA to teachers: New sex ed course could get you arrested

A district attorney in Juneau County, Wisconsin, warned teachers in a memo sent to schools that if they teach the new sexual education curriculum mandated under state law, they could be arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a child.

Because the law requires teachers to instruct children not only about contraceptives but about how to use them, Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth said, schools are forced to encourage students to "engage in sexual behavior, whether as a victim or an offender."

And since minors can't legally have sex in Wisconsin, teachers would essentially be endorsing the behavior and could be held liable, Southworth said in the letter.

"It is akin to teaching children about alcohol use, then instructing them on how to make mixed alcoholic drinks," he wrote.

In his letter, Southworth said the law would convert sex education classes "into a radical program that sexualizes our children as early as kindergarten. This, in turn, will lead to more child sexual assaults."

Southworth sent the letter to five school districts and said they should drop all sex education curriculum until the law could be changed.

The law doesn't force any schools to teach the sex education classes, but it sets out strict guidelines on what should be taught in the schools that choose to do so. The law passed narrowly in the legislature and was the topic of a fierce battle between Republicans and Democrats: No Republicans voted for it, and it was signed by a Democratic governor.

Those who support the law hail it as a chance to keep down the rate of STDs and teen pregnancies and to properly educate students, but opponents say that rather than giving children all the information necessary to have sex, they should focus on a curriculum of abstinence.

Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, a Democrat, told the Wisconsin State Journal that she believes there's no problem with the law.

She said Southworth, a Republican, is a "zealot" who wrote the letter to try to scare people out of teaching the sexual education classes.

"Using condoms isn't a crime for anyone," Roys told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "This guy is not a credible legal source on this matter, I'm sorry to say. His purpose is to intimidate and create enough panic in the minds of school administrators that they'll turn their backs on young people and their families."

In his letter, Southworth argued that it is a crime and that he's just trying to help schools be aware of the legal danger they could be putting themselves in.

"The teacher could be charged with the crime even if the child does not actually engage in the criminal behavior [of having sex as a minor]," Southworth wrote.

Both the State Journal and the Journal-Sentinel spoke with school administrators who said they were seeking legal advice on the matter.

soundoff (125 Responses)
  1. Pan3

    The more you make sex "evil" the more kids will want to do it.
    Better to educate on safe sex, than having un-wanted pregnancies and STDs.
    Young people have been having sex for thousands of years....
    Teach gun control and tolerance, that will save lives!

    April 7, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Aaron R

    Wow. I find this to be unbelievable. This man is so afraid of human sexuality that he is actually threatening to arrest teachers for doing nothing more than their job? Its like being afraid of teaching a class on respiration. Both issues (respiration and sex) are functions of the human body, nothing more, nothing less. To be so afraid to have to educate a child about either is absolutely ridiculous. I try to remain as neutral as possible in political issues, but I find it simply astonishing the lenghts to which radical right-wingers will go to achieve their goals. Just because this one sheriff (and apparently all republican legistators in the state) is terrified of sex and/or the workings of the human body does not mean that all people in the state should be forced to live their lives simply to please him. If nothing else, turning a blind eye to a problem (i.e., teen pregnancy or STD rates in teen populations) solves nothing. I feel sorry for the teachers.

    April 7, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bironfelix

    Liberal encouragement pre-marriage sexuality is the downfall of western civilization. The young now wear themselves out with multiple longterm relationships from age 13. Then after they are partied out, they grab what they can in their early thirties, after they reach the realization that their licenscious behavior is superficial. Unfortunately, many do not get to see their partners in their youthful beauty. They do not get to grow together from their greener years unto old age. Some do not achieve intimacy in marriage that they had in dozens of other relationships. Fidelity suffers . . . fidelity and loyalty are not passed on to their children, personal and professional relationships, and to the greater society abroad.

    April 7, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Michael

    The statement "It is akin to teaching children about alcohol use, then instructing them on how to make mixed alcoholic drinks," is flawed. I think a better analogy would be telling children about skydiving and then teaching them how to use the parachute. Skydiving and sex are both fun but have definite risks. Not using the protective equipment correctly in either case could tragically alter, or even end, lives.

    April 7, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tom

    Teenagers will have sex, not all of them but probably a majority of them will have sex before they reach 18. Comparing sex education to telling a child how to make a jack and coke is absurd. It would be more like explaining gun safety to someone who has never handled a gun before. Instead of letting them pick one up and shoot themselves or someone around them let's explain what precautions they should take in doing so. So should we discourage gun safety classes as it might make more people shoot guns? Ridiculous!!!!

    April 7, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bradley

    Maybe someone should write a letter to Southworth advising him the definition and legal ramifications of criminal intimidation. It would be interesting to watch a State Attorney General bring up a county District Attorney on charges.

    April 7, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. don

    politics reach a new low on a daily basis

    April 7, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. mtdrommd

    This is a tired, dead argument – teaching children how to protect themselves from STD's and unwanted pregnancy does not encourage sexual activity – MORE knowledge discourages it, LACK of knowledge encourages it. Abstinence only education sounds great in theory, but is really foolish in reality.

    April 7, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Patrick

    You'd think the bigger concern here is that it's illegal for kids to have sex in Wisconsin. How is that law constitutional? Kids have rights too – and I'll thank you for refraining from legislating against what should be everyones absolute right.

    April 7, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. cf

    These sound like the same loons who made an uproar over Obama "teaching sex to kndergartners" for a program he helped create that taught children to be aware of abuse and how to report it.

    April 7, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. conoclast

    Just another tempest-in-a-teapot, brought to our weary attention by yet another unhinged religious zealot. Don't we have enough real problems?

    April 7, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Wahlheiner

    "...if they teach the new sexual education curriculum mandated under state law, they could be arrested..." Why are they going after the messengers? They should "arrest" the originators/authors and politicians who passed the law and not the teachers who are trying to do their job!

    April 7, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Vladimir

    Does he have a peer reviewed source for this allegation?

    "In his letter, Southworth said the law would convert sex education classes "into a radical program that sexualizes our children as early as kindergarten. This, in turn, will lead to more child sexual assaults."

    April 7, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Shawn

    Southworth is way off base. I guess he would rather our children who are naturally curious to engage unprotected or even ignorant of the dangers of sex. Informed children tend to make wiser decisions. Sheltering children from these facts of life only raises their curiosity for it, makes it Taboo and fun. This in turn leads to higher pregnancy rates among minors as well as the spread of STD's among them. Southworth needs to look at the reality of the situation and enter the present instead of living in the past.

    April 7, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. blueeyes

    I remember learning sex ed in middle school/beginning of high school. I dont believe they have any business teaching sex ed in middle school that should wait till like junior/senior year. Schools need to inforce the dress code as well. You have young children wearing tempting clothing...that bascially says "look at me". I think a big responsbility is in the parents hands too. I agree with they need to bring in real teen moms & dads to tell there stories and how in changed there life and what they would have done different.

    April 7, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9