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Wis. Prosecutor Sends Ominous Message on Sex Ed. Law

By Erik W. Robelen — April 07, 2010 1 min read

The recent struggle in Wisconsin over sex education apparently isn’t over yet, based on a rather alarming message a local prosecutor has conveyed to several school districts. Scott Southworth, the Juneau County district attorney, told the school systems in a letter that sex education teachers could face criminal charges if they follow a new state law that allows them to instruct students about proper contraceptive use, reports the Associated Press.

Southworth, a Republican, said the instruction could amount to contributing to the delinquency of a minor if teachers know students are sexually active, the story explains. He said the districts should drop sex education until the law is repealed.

“Depending on the specific facts of a case ... this encouragement and advocacy could lead to criminal charges,” Southworth wrote to districts in his county.

In February, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, signed legislation that requires the state’s public schools to teach about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases as part of comprehensive sex education classes, IF they choose to offer such classes. (The law still leaves it up to local school boards to decide whether to offer sex education courses.) As I noted in a blog item, the measure was opposed by all Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature.

Meanwhile, I recently wrote a story about sex education provisions in the federal health care package President Obama signed into law last month.

One measure reinstates a controversial abstinence-only approach to sex education, with $250 million provided over five years. Another provides $375 million over five years to promote more-comprehensive approaches to sex education that touch on both abstinence and the use of contraceptives to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The emphasis in the program is on funding efforts that are “evidence-based,” “medically accurate,” and “age-appropriate,” the law says.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.