As a health teacher, nothing irks me more thank encountering stories of teachers who've gotten into trouble for discussing sex. For many of us, this is a subject that just naturally comes up during the course of a typical lesson.
But the situation in a Wisconsin county is making the usual debates about comprehensive sex education versus the abstinence-only variety seem almost quaint in comparison. That's because teachers in this state are facing an impossible situation.
Recently, Wisconsin mandated a sex education curriculum that required teachers to teach about condoms and other forms of birth control. Sounds pretty straight-forward, right? It would have been, but last week, a D.A. named Scott Southworth announced that teachers who followed this law, could end up in jail for breaking another: namely, contributing to the delinquency of minors.
According to the LA Times:
A letter sent to five school districts by Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth said the instruction could amount to contributing to the delinquency of a minor if teachers know students are sexually active. He said the districts should drop sex education until the law is repealed. 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.
Southworth isn't the first person to try to keep a discussion of sex out of the classroom. Legions of abstinence-only supporters have been working on that for 15 years. Nor is he the first to try to make talking about sex by teachers a crime. Indeed, a few years ago, something similar happened in Utah, when a Salt Lake City teacher with over 30 years experience was put on paid administrative and threatened with criminal charges after she answered students' questions about oral sex, masturbation and what it meant to be gay. That incident prompted Representative Carl Wimmer, (he of criminalizing miscarriage fame), to suggest introducing a law that would both make it illegal for teachers to answer students' sex questions, and would also set up a teacher registry listing the names of those educators who dared to do so!
Thankfully, that law didn't pass. But this new incident in Wisconsin is a reminder that such thinking is still alive and well. Yes, there are teachers out there who have engaged in criminal sexual behavior involving students. But the average teacher talking about sex ed, sure isn't one of them. Like supporters of abstinence-only education, supporters of muzzling teachers, are working under the premise that kids who don't know about sex won't have it.
How many more pregnant teens with STDs does this country need to realize this will never be the case?