Thursday, April 15, 2010

One Step Forward.....Two Steps Back

Over the weekend I was delighted to find out that Wisconsin’s Healthy Youth Act actually took effect in March. This new law requires schools that provide sex-education courses to teach students “medically accurate, age-appropriate information, including how to use birth control and prevent sexually transmitted diseases.” What is even more ground breaking, in my opinion, is the additional requirement of teaching students how to recognize signs of an abusive relationship. This new law appears to have developed in response to studies that show abstinence-only education is not effective in protecting teen health or preventing pregnancy. In fact Governor Doyle has rejected Federal money earmarked for abstinence-only education programs in the past because of this failing record. Well done Governor Doyle!

Unfortunately not everyone feels this way. Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth has taken the drastic measure of threatening to arrest local sex education teachers if they comply with the new law. In a letter Southworth wrote to 5 school districts in his jurisdiction, he called the new law “programming that promotes the sexualization—and the sexual assault—of our children” and likened teaching children how to use contraceptives to “instructing them how to make mixed drinks.” Southworth also finds danger in the likelihood that a discussion of gender might pop-up in the curriculum thus the school “may need to provide instruction on homosexuality.”

I am annoyed on several levels with Southworth’s letter, but overall it ignores the fact that parents are allowed to withdraw their children from the sex education course. If this comprehensive, well-rounded approach is not the message parents want to send, then they may opt out of it.

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