Wisconsin DA Warns Sex Ed Teachers of Felony Charges
GOP Prosecutor Warns School Districts teaching contraception under new law passed March 11 could be criminal act on minors ; Wants law repealed
A Republican Wisconsin prosecutor, District Attorney Scott Southworth, is warning sex education teachers they could face felony charges if they follow a new state law that allows them to instruct students about proper contraceptive use.
Southworth has sent a letter to five school districts in Juneau County, Wisconsin stating that instruction about proper use of contraceptives could amount to contributing to the delinquency of minors, as they are not allowed to have sex under state law. The districts are being cautioned to drop sex ed classes, and the law is pending repeal.
Southworth also argued that teaching contraceptive use encourages sexual behavior among children, which equates to sexual assault because minors can't legally have sex in Wisconsin.
"Depending on the specific facts of a case ... this encouragement and advocacy could lead to criminal charges," Southworth, a Republican, wrote to districts in his county.
Wisconsin State Legislature acted irresponsibly: Abstinence Only versus Contraceptives and Scare Tactics
State Rep.Tamara Grigsby (Milwaukee-D), who is the chief author of the law which allows contraceptive teachings, dismissed the March 24 letter as a scare tactic, saying she believes the DA is being "ridiculous" and irresponsible.
Southworth, however, told Associated Press he believes his is a valid legal opinion, and that the legislature acted irresponsibly to allow the law to pass. He is awaiting its repeal.
Some have pointed out the very legitimate purposes of teaching contraceptive use so that STDs and unwanted pregnancies may be reduced, avoiding the "Bristol Palin Abstinence Dilemma".
Wisconsin state law does not require the teaching of sex education. But the new law, which took effect March 11, lays out requirements for those that do, including teaching the benefits of abstinence, criminal penalties for having underage sex and the benefits and proper use of contraceptives.
Supporters of the new law believe it will reduce teen pregnancies; those supporting include groups representing nurses, health departments and the state teacher's union. Conservative opponents counter schools should focus on abstinence.
The DA views the new law as opening the door to sexualization of minors and a radical program that may increase sex abuse of underage students.
"Shopping Around" for Family Members who approve of early sex?
He also criticized a provision requiring teachers to stress the importance of talking about sex with family members, saying it encourages kids to "shop around" for anyone in the family who supports sex.
Southworth complained that language prohibiting biased instruction makes it impossible to teach that sexual promiscuity is wrong. He also said a clause allowing volunteer health care providers to teach sex education could open the door to Planned Parenthood employees marketing sexually oriented products to students.
A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood said that their organization does not intrude unless asked, and that contraceptive education helps reduce sexually transmitted diseases. The prosecution of teachers is now an added concern, and a moral dilemma.
The anti-abortion advocacy group Pro-Life Wisconsin has joined the lobby for repeal.
New Lisbon Superintendent Tom Andres said his district, which was among those that received Southworth's letter, is seeking legal advice about the law.