So imagine your school district gets a letter from the district attorney threatening to arrest and charge teachers for teaching a curriculum approved by the state legislature for contributing to the “delinquency of a minor.” Pretty shocking, huh?
Well that’s exactly what happened in Wisconsin.
Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth sent a letter to five school districts that stated Wisconsin’s new sex education curriculum — which passed in February — is “illegal, and could lead to charges against teachers.” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
The new law “promotes the sexualization – and sexual assault – of our children,” Southworth wrote in a March 24 letter to officials in five school districts. He urged the districts to suspend their sex education programs and transfer their curriculum on anatomy to a science course.
“Forcing our schools to instruct children on how to utilize contraceptives encourages our children to engage in sexual behavior, whether as a victim or an offender,” he wrote. “It is akin to teaching children about alcohol use, then instructing them on how to make mixed alcoholic drinks.”
“If a teacher instructs any student aged 16 or younger how to utilize contraceptives under circumstances where the teacher knows the child is engaging in sexual activity with another child – or even where the ‘natural and probable consequences’ of the teacher’s instruction is to cause that child to engage in sexual intercourse with a child – that teacher can be charged under this statute” of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, he wrote.
He said the law went too far because it required teachers not to teach students about the effects of birth control, but on how to properly use them, “which turns objective instruction into implicit encouragement and advocacy.”
It seems Southworth has a habit of using his position as district attorney of Juneau County to promote his religious beliefs. Such as this letter, written on official letterhead dated January 27, 2009 where he wrote to Donna Katen-Bahensky, president & CEO of the University of Wisconsin Hospital about second-trimester abortions. Or his testimony in 2008 to the Senate Committee on Public Health, Senior Issues, Long Term Care and Privacy on a bill about assisted suicide.
Yet Southworth denies that his letter to Juneau County schools was politically motivated.
He disputed claims by [Rep. Kelda Helen Roys] and [Rep. Tamara Grigsby] that he was inciting fear in teachers or trying to promote his political views, saying he had an ethical obligation to tell districts his interpretation of the law.
“If I’d wanted to be ideological, I would have said in the letter you shouldn’t have sex before marriage because that’s the Christian perspective. I’m an evangelical,” Southworth said.
It should be mentioned that the new law does not require schools to teach sex education, in fact one of the schools that received Southworth’s letter, Necedah Area School District “has not taught sex education for years, said Charlie Krupa, the school superintendent.” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that for schools that offer sex education:
The law requires schools that have sex education courses to teach students medically accurate, age-appropriate information, including how to use birth control and prevent sexually transmitted disease. It also requires the classes to include information about how to recognize signs of abuse and how alcohol can affect decision making.
The classes also must inform students that teenagers who have sex can wind up on the state’s sex offender registry because sex with children 16 or younger is a crime.
Under the law, parents can remove their children from sex education classes as they could before. Schools also would be allowed to not offer sex education, but they would have to notify parents they did not offer such courses.
Of course Southworth was vague about how he would charge any teacher in his county with a crime. He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Southworth said in an interview that he couldn’t say how likely he would be to file charges if districts taught sex education under the new law because it would depend on the specifics of any case.
“I’m not looking to charge any teachers,” he said. “I’ve got enough work to do.”
Meanwhile the schools are debating what do to with the letter.
Caught in the middle are schools, said Tom Andres, superintendent of the New Lisbon School District.
“Here we are again – short of money, getting a dictate that we have to do something different from two different sources,” he said.
Andres said district officials are studying Southworth’s letter and will consider it in the coming months as they decide what to do.
April 7, 2010
Birth rate among US teens declines Boston Globe
Utah’s sexual assault rate outpaces US average Salt Lake Tribune
Blacksburg prepares for anti-gay protests Roanoke Times
Rape of lesbian: Activists call for no bail Independent Online
Tangerang curbs maternal, infant mortality rates Jakarta Post
Watchdog raps contraception ad The Guardian
Anti-gay candidate tests GOP appeal Sacramento Bee
Utah PTA to clarify its stance on classes The Durango Herald
Michigan hit by decline in births, economy blamed Detroit Free Press
Home sperm count test being reviewed by FDA Tampa Tribune
The IUD Reborn Newsweek
April 6, 2010
DA tells schools to drop sex ed, or teachers could be charged Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
NJ sees rise in vasectomies amid difficult economy The Star-Ledger – NJ.com
PTA says its sex ed stance was misunderstood Salt Lake Tribune
Senate abortion bill continues to stir emotions Atlanta Journal Constitution
Majority in California support gay marriage, Times/USC poll finds Los Angeles Times
At Least the Teen Pregnancy Rate Isn’t Getting Higher… AlterNet (blog)
Neb. Right To Life Endorsements Coming Yankton Daily Press