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. Nathaniel Elder

    I'm very relieved to see that so many of you think this is as absolutely ridiculous as i do! It is the school's job to teach children about their choices and statistics behind contraception. It is the parent's responsibility to have discussions with their children to encourage them to make good choices. These teachers would be getting fired for trying to do their job,

    April 7, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jon

    In high school, my sex ed teacher walked into the classroom, and without saying a word, she opened a box of condoms, unwrapped a condom, and rolled it down over her finger. She looked up at her dumbfounded class and said, "It's that easy. Any questions?" We learned a lot that semester about STDs, pregnancy, and childbirth, but the image of our teacher unrolling a condom in class is what stuck with us. I wonder how many unwanted pregnancies that simple demonstration prevented?

    April 7, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. tim

    Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. Teachers are required to implement the state curriculum. They don't exactly have a choice. The da is really abusing his authority and not supporting teachers, students, and parents in their overall learning. As a citizen, the DA has an equal opportunity to give his input regarding the state curriculum. Instead of attending the appropriate meeting, the DA has thrown the weight of his office into a political conversation regarding how students should best learn. Don't know if it's in his job description to be political, but tax payers should be aware that the DA is using paid time to give his political views about the education of students. At best this is a conflict of interest. Do this on your off hours buddy.

    April 7, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mark

    1. You don't teach kids to have sex. They will figure it out for themselves.
    2. You are not encouraging sex through sex education. You are encouraging potentially life-saving procedures and practices.
    3.You can promote abstinence and still teach sex education.
    4. DA's can be removed from office. He will figure it out for himself soon enough.

    April 7, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BK

    Give children the information required to have sex?
    Would you rather them just do it without knowing what it was? Its genetically encoded. They WILL do it if not told about it, but they 'might' do it if told its dangerous. See the difference?

    April 7, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Turtle1987

    This is funny because my parents are from Wisconsin and they had their first child at 15 hmm.

    April 7, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Teacher

    I've taught 8th grade health for three years. In my district, we promote and emphasis abstinence but realize that kids also need to know about various methods of birth control. Parents can talk all they want about answering their kids' questions but too often they won't ask. Discussing birth controls in a health class at least puts the information out to the students while still giving them the choice of saying no. We also stress that it is not wrong to say no to sex with boy or girlfriend who is pushing to "do it or you don't love me" and we give examples of ways of saying no and meaning it.

    April 7, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Lisa

    I wonder how the DA will feel when his kid comes home with an STD because they didn't know how to use a condom. And simply telling teens not to have sex, will just make them want to do it more. 95% of the time you tell an teen not to do something and they will do it, just to find out why they shouldn't do it or b/c they were told they were not allowed.

    April 7, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. david

    Let's see, you can get married at 16 in Wisconsin but have to wait two years to have sex. Is the DA arresting the 16 & 17 year old married minors that are having sex?

    April 7, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Applejacksters

    I think that all the people involved with trying to teach these kids Sex-Ed so young should watch the South Park episode when they decided to teach kindergartners about Sex-Ed. So wrong. Sex Ed should be reserved for Middle School and Highschool. These kids need to be kids and not have to worry about sex.

    April 7, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ACE

    This is a 2 wrongs don't make a right issue.
    1. Kids should be taught about the birds & bees.
    2. It should be taught by parents FIRST...not by schools.
    3. It should be taught in school. It's part of the life cycle process. However it needs to be taught responsibly. Showing someone how to use a condom or anything like that is completely unnecessary...even a toddler knows how to put a banana in a bag...

    April 7, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. LB

    Sex Ed should be allowed.....8-12 grades......with parental consent.....if parents do not want their child to have the education then the child doesn't attend the class.....If the child doesn't return the permission slip they are not allowed to attend either. Or the they attend the abstinence class....LOL!! Most teenagers today believe that Oral sex is the same as kissing .......no big deal...scary!!!!!

    April 7, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mary Blumer

    Showing children how something works does not incline them to use that knowledge. I've shown my children several times how the vacuum and dishwasher work but have yet to see them use them.

    April 7, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jeff

    What is sad about this article is that there is no mention that kids who have had sex ed classes delay their first sexual experience later than kids who have not had the education. Kids grow up to be adults. We need to educate them on all aspects of life. Its unfortunatle that some people are so terrrfied of their sexuality that they put a childs life in danger.

    April 7, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Katie

    We teach kids about lung function in school, and then tell them smoking damages their lungs. We don't give them cigarettes though. Why should the reproductive system be any different? They're not showing porn to the kids. Should we not teach kids to buckle their seat belts, too, because it might encourage them to get into car accidents?

    April 7, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
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