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DA Threatens Teachers: Don't Follow Sex Ed Law

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on April 12, 2010 1:02 PM

Ignorance is such bliss. Perhaps bliss is what Juneau County, Wisconsin, District Attorney Scott Southworth is looking to spread around his jurisdiction. That, and fear of criminal prosecution. In a letter sent to Juneau County school districts, DA Southworth warns teachers they could face criminal prosecution if during their state sanctioned sex education classes, they teach students how to use contraception in the proper manner.

According to reporting by AOL News, Wisconsin passed what most would find to be a fairly reasonable, rational law named the Healthy Youth Act, which took effect this March. Under this law, schools with sex education courses are required to teach students medically accurate, age-appropriate information, including how to use birth control and prevent sexually transmitted diseases. The law also requires the classes to include information about how to recognize signs of abuse and how alcohol can affect decision making. Schools may opt out of including sex ed in their curriculum, but must notify parents if they do.

In a rather unusual occurrence of a DA telling upstanding members of the community not to follow the law, Southworth has sent a letter to Juneau County teachers telling them in his opinion, the new law promotes sexual assault of children. Further, Southworth goes on to warn teachers who do follow the law by teaching how to use contraceptives, that they could be charged with misdemeanor or felony delinquency of a minor, with maximum punishments ranging from nine months in jail to six years in prison.

Now that the teachers in Juneau County are shaking in their boots, Southworth's work is almost done, but will not be fully complete until "school district leaders to simply drop their sex-education courses until the state Legislature "amends or repeals these new mandates."" Quite an impressive show of respect for the law by an officer of the court. 

Some legislators, as you might expect, are not pleased. Rep. Kelda Helen Roys (D-Madison), who helped write the new law, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Using condoms isn't a crime for anyone," she said. "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." It seems to be working.

As the area School Board is now caught between the rock and hard place of the actual law and the opposing threats from law "enforcement," AOL reports they will be meeting next week to decided how to proceed. "We have a responsibility to talk about [sex]. We need to do it in a safe and responsible way," New Lisbon School District Superintendent Tom Andres told AOL. "It's already difficult, and this [letter] makes it more difficult. ... We certainly don't want to contribute to the delinquency of a minor."

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