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. dean

    So, chemistry experiments teach them how to burn things and subsequently turns them into arsonists? DA logic – hmmm...

    April 7, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Papaya

    News flash, parents...........kids are having sex anyway. May as well be protected vs. "hoping" they don't have sex.

    April 7, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Terry From West Texas

    This district attorney should be in a profession that requires no mental abilities. He is doing his district a disservice by peddling his personal views as law. Anyone who cannot tell the difference between a sex education class and statutory rape should not be employed in a responsible position.

    April 7, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. sr.arther3

    why not teach kids how to use protection.....its easyer than abstinence. Abstinence leaves temptetion at least if we teach to use protection it might work

    April 7, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mattito

    I was taught geometry and algebra in high school with the expectation that I would someday need this information in my adult life. Shouldn't sex education be taught with the expectation that later on as adults, those students may need to know how to use a condom or protect themselves from a sexually transmitted disease?

    April 7, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. paul

    I'm a conservative by nature and what this DA is doing is scary. If I were to take his logic we could use it to prosecute anyone who teaches their children gun safety. Under the premiss that if I show a minor how, that they will then use that knowledge illegally.

    This is a SERIOUS slippery slope who's end game is frightening.

    April 7, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. James T.

    Give me a break. Do you really think that they are teaching your children how to have sex. NO! Your kids are learning it from thier peers. What kind of information do you think they are getting? For goodness sake let schools debunk the myths and teach children. I am sure they will use common sense and send out a permission slip. If you have a problem letting someone else teach your kid about sex, don't give them permision and teach them yourself when you think it's appropriate. Just make sure you do it before they get pregnant or get someone pregnant!

    April 7, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. david

    It's amazing that in 2010, we are still having problems educating our children on some of the most basic life issues. How pathetic.

    April 7, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. djamison

    Sex education encourages sex and is immoral. I waited until I was married all three times, where has everyone else's values gone?

    April 7, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      These people arguing "where have the values gone?", I need to ask. Who says that your values are the same as mine? I value education above anything, because a better educated populace is better for the good of all. Without educating our young adults, we leave enough up to mystery that they settle on self-discovery.

      July 11, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Stephencray

    The Dutch start rather intensive sex education at age five. The result? Teen pregnancy rate almost 8 times lower than the United States, and an abortion rate 10 times lower than ours. Throw in their almost insignificant AIDS rate and it's pretty clear what system the data supports.

    April 7, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cliff Vegas

    That's decentralized 'states rights' working for you right there. People wonder why the Fed gets fed up with tin horn local bureaucrats; why certain federal regulations exist... well, there y'are. The states aren't perfect either.

    April 7, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Valeriy

    Why do the schools even have to engage in sexual education. Shouldn't they educate in math, science, literature, history instead? Arousing sexual interest in kids is the last thing we need.

    April 7, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. johnny orlando

    WOW, arresting a teacher for that will be like arresting a selfdefense teacher for battery

    April 7, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Paul

    This is happening in Wisconsin? What a shocker!

    April 7, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mom

    This is exactly why I don't trust the public school system to teach my children about sex. I teach mine to think before they act and to be safe. I certainly don't condone sexual activity in teens, but I'm not about to stick my head in the sand and hope it doesn't happen either. If my kids have a question, I answer it fully and honestly. Ignoring the issue doesn't make it go away nor does it protect our children and teach them what to expect and how to take care of themselves and others.

    April 7, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
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