In February of 2010, Democratic governor Jim Doyle signed a bill in Wisconsin that now required schools that teach sexual education to avoid teaching students about how to put on a condom or how to take birth control pills. The bill states that teaching students how to use contraceptives could subject the teachers to criminal charges.
Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth sent an advisement in March to local schools about the new law, warning them that their sex ed lessons could land them in the court. Southworth claimed that showing their students how to properly use contraceptives would be contributing to the delinquency of minors. In Wisconsin that misdemeanor is punishable with up to nine months of jail time and $10,000 worth of fines.
In the letter he also encouraged teachers to stop offering sexual education courses until the Legislature annuls the law claiming that, “[He] didn’t pick the fight, the Legislature dumped it [on his] lap.”
Wisconsin schools are not required to provide sexual education courses specifically, but there is a law endorsed by Planned Parenthood that mandates that schools much teach a range of topics including the benefits of abstinence, the accurate use of contraceptives, accountable decision making and the criminal penalties for underage sex. Parents may elect to remove their children from any sexual education courses offered by the school.
In Wisconsin, it is currently illegal to have sex before the age of 18. Children under the age of 17 who have mutual consented sex may be prosecuted as juveniles and those who are 17 may be potentially convicted with a misdemeanor as adults.
Many teachers have expressed that they are not concerned about the warnings and believe Southworth is exaggerating the issues at hand.
Janine Geske, a former state Supreme Court Justice, said that “if Southworth tried to prosecute a teacher for adhering to guidelines approved by the legislature and Governor, the case would likely be dismissed.”
The state Legislative Council also provided a statement that they agree with Geske and that teachers who follow the state laws would not suffer prosecution.
Has anyone in Wisconsin seen a change this month in their sexual education classes that can comment on the situation?