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. ash blood

    Let teachers teach kids about sex it sounld not be a problem 4 every1 like really?

    April 7, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. nascarlucy

    I never had any type of sex education in school or at home. I attended high school back in the late 1970's. People were having sex back then. Teen age pregnancies was not something that anyone wanted but a few occurred nonetheless.

    I cam from a single parent family (my dad left when I was vey young). I didn't become a teen-age mother nor did my older brother become a deadbeat dad as many people often sterero type those who grow up in single parent households.

    It was surprising to me how many woman at the college that I attended which was quite conservative told me about their cheating fathers, and their mothers who took pills to cope with the adultery. This is hardly an example for their sons and daughters. My mother would have sent my dad packing if he did this. People knew about it but pretended like it didn't exist. Many of these people also went to religious run schools and were supposed to be better people because of it. Some were and some weren't. People in the middle and upper middle classes get a pass for these behaviors. People of lower social standings don't.

    April 7, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. philipe12

    Really now...these sex-ed classes teach our kids "safe-sex" when there is no such thing. To an AIDS virus, the condom looks like a half-closed screen door appears to a housefly.

    Teaching our kids lies about "safe sex" should be punished by local DA's...don't ya think?

    April 7, 2010 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Newtonyd

    "I never understood the pro sex-ed argument. We tell kids that guns can kill people, yet we don't bring guns and ammo to school, show them how to load it, and have them fire it into something."

    That's only partially true, because, if you haven't noticed, men are packing 'heat' (wink wink), and carrying ammo (nudge nudge), wherever they go, and that includes school. If you don't teach them how to handle it, sooner or later it's going to go off and hit something precious.

    I'm in favor of sex-ed with a more honest and open approach, especially after the fear-mongering and stupidity that went on in my own sex-ed class. The problems of STD's should be taught, but, more importantly, the costs of having a child before you are prepared and the mental and physical tolls of abortions in various stages should be explained.

    Also, it should go without saying that DA in question is a tool.

    April 7, 2010 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Emily

    I'm a grade school student and I think they are just making the issue more complicated than it needs to be. It's just like smoking. Scientists discovered that smoking is bad for your health a long time ago. Did anyone listen? No. So I think that they shouldn't encourage sex in any way but teach the wrongs of sex.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. student#1

    I am a student im not stating what school i go to in fear that this conflict will come to my school. sex ed is teaching us about abstinence, the only reason they teach us about how to put on condoms or whatever is so that if we choose to be sexually active we have a less chance of getting pregnant or having an std.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. student#1

    Whether you teach it or not kids are still going to be sexually active. If you take away our only way of learning right from wrong there is going to be an increase in teen pregnancies and more teens are going to whind up with an std. do you really want that to happend?

    April 7, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Samantha

    Sure, let's keep our kids completely sheltered from the truth so we can have more unwanted pregnancies, which turns into more poverty, more welfare, more violence etc... Republicans are so worried about having less government and government spending yet they like feeding into the problems that have put us where we are today!

    April 7, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Maria

    I think this is absolutely ridiculous. People have to face reality. Teens are going to have sex. It will happen. It's better to teach them the consequences and how to protect themselves before they start having it so maybe they will make a more informed decision. And even if, you wait until marriage why would you suddenly be a genius on the subject of sex? Just because you're older? Kids today will learn about it from their friends and will not be willing to talk to their parents because it's either awkward or "inappropriate." Teaching it in school allows kids to get the information that they might not be able to get otherwise. Abstinence is very important, but people have to be realistic and realize that it's just as important to teach safe sex.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bryn

    In a perfect world, every parent would sit down with their children and talk frankly and openly with their kids about sex. In a perfect world, every person would wait until they were physically, emotionally, and morally prepared to have sex. In a perfect world, no children would be born to people who don't really want them. Unfortunately this is not reality and we cannot count on parents to teach their kids about sex and we all know that plenty of teens have sex before they are ready. Sexual education is necessary and good for those adults who care enough about these kids to tell them the truth. And for all of those anti-choice folks out there, may I point out that knowledge about birth control and proper use of birth control PREVENTS abortions!

    April 8, 2010 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
  11. really

    I can't believe this is still a debate. don't get me wrong. waiting to have sex till your married is a good thing. but lets get really. kids are kids and they do what they want. don't matter what you say to them. so you might as well educate them about sex, how to use comdoms and birth control. you can still try to discourage them to have sex at a young age, but still give them the tools to be safe if they go down that road.

    April 8, 2010 at 2:37 am | Report abuse |
  12. Kim

    I see many posts that say we should wait till jn/sn of high school to educate children. This is ridiculous. Most children are aware of sex via TV /Internet. It is very important to educate Children by the 4th or 5th grade. Do a google search and note that the CDC does not keep track of 12 year old mothers because it is common and lumps them into teen pregnancy. Children will experiment whether or not they are educated in the classroom. As for the religious/moral wait until you married that is based on an individuals moral choice and is not applicable to this argument. Our youth need to be educated to protect themselves.

    April 8, 2010 at 2:47 am | Report abuse |
  13. Dick

    My parents were conservative and were virgins until their honeymoon, but they never knew how to discuss anything about puberty with us.

    I learned it by hanging out at the library and doing catalog searches for every book that had a reference to sex. By reading the dictionary, looking for body part related words, I knew what ablactation was by the time I was 7. But I was the exception. My sisters didn't know what hit them.

    My oldest sister when through a "Carrie" experience while away at summer camp and was mortified at both the loss of blood as well as the teasing from piers. Thinking I was still in the dark, they asked my aunt if she would explain it all to me when I was 12. (I actually had to correct her on some facts.)

    I started answering questions from my kids before they went to school. Even little kids want to know stuff, and candidly answering their question as they occur, without acting weird about it, satisfies their need to know. With my kids, the discussion progressed at a gradual pace as they grew into their teen and adult years. But I feel we have been an exception to the norm.

    There is a place for education outside the home. A place where you can learn the correct names for the body parts and how they really work, rather than just the slang, and the lies that are sometimes intended to lure someone beyond their comfort level.

    As in most aspects of education, the "one-size-fits-all" approach is a poor one, but it is the reality of how education has developed. So some thrive while others fail. If we leave it up to the schools to exclusively teach this topic, the results will vary just like they do in other subjects. If we leave it up to parents exclusively, we end up with a mixed result as well.

    When will education be a cooperative effort between home and school?

    April 8, 2010 at 3:42 am | Report abuse |
  14. katiesmedic

    It has been proven over and over again that "abstinence" education does not work. Ask the Bush administration how successful that was for them. The DA is attempting to force his religious template onto the school, and therefore the children, in an attempt to further his own pious beliefs. What an idiot.

    April 8, 2010 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
  15. B

    Sex-ed is fine and I support it. But what happened to parents talking to thier kids? If you have any kind of relationship with your (AND YOU SHOULD)they will listen to you, quit depending on the state to raise your kids for you!!!

    April 8, 2010 at 7:34 am | Report abuse |
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