Wisconsin DA Threats to Prosecute Teachers for Following the Law

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Seems that Wisconsin has a new law called the Healthy Youth Act, which instructs public school teachers to teach age-appropriate sex education, including the use of contraception. (Insert libertarian dogma about how we wouldn’t be having these debates if not for the existence of public schools here.)

Whatever you may think of that law, it is the law. But Wisconsin District Attorney Scott Southworth recently sent a letter to public school teachers in his county telling them to break the law . . . or he’ll prosecute them.

From Southworth’s letter:

To encourage children to have sex in any way, shape or form is egregious. It’s one thing to instruct students about human biology, human physiology and reproduction. It’s quite another to cross that line and start teaching students on how to engage in sex for pleasure….

It’s akin to saying we need to teach kids how to make mixed drinks because some kids are going to illegally drink alcohol….

[The Healthy Youth Act] promotes the sexualization — and sexual assault — of our children.

Actually, it’s probably more akin to telling students that if are going to drink, you should have a designated driver. Or to drink where you plan to sleep.

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39 Responses to “Wisconsin DA Threats to Prosecute Teachers for Following the Law”

  1. #1 |  Tom G | 

    Didn’t read the DA’s whole letter yet, but this reads like his OPINION. Which hopefully is not yet the LAW. Correct me if I’m wrong, but if he does make good on his threat, isn’t he risking something akin to false arrest charges?

  2. #2 |  Bob | 

    But… He’s the proud father of a disabled Iraqi orphan who suffers
    from cerebral palsy! That he adopted from the “Mother Teresa Orphanage”. After being inspired by watching “The Passion of the Christ”.

    He’s doing god’s work!

  3. #3 |  Athena | 

    From what I understand, this man is taking an established “Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor” law and stretching it just as far as *he* thinks he can legally justify in order to bully schools out of complying with more recently established guidelines for sex ed.

    Honestly, I don’t know what he risks if he follows through. Acquittals or successful appeals? I’d certainly hope so. But whether or not he’ll be held accountable personally is beyond me. I’d be interested to hear what the recourse may be for dealing with a rogue DA.

  4. #4 |  ktc2 | 

    Police risk consequences for breaking the law?

    ROTFLMAO.

    Are you new here?

  5. #5 |  Cynical in CA | 

    I am very pleased to see the State in autocannibalization mode. Perhaps there will be an infinite feedback loop of prosecutions and counter-prosecutions that will result in the State destroying itself permanently. One can only hope.

  6. #6 |  MDGuy | 

    “It’s quite another to cross that line and start teaching students on how to engage in sex for pleasure….”

    Damn, they’re not teaching them the freakin’ Kama Sutra, they’re teaching them to use condoms, which frankly IMHO make sex less enjoyable, apart from the peace-of-mind provided by the protection they afford against STI’s and pregnancy.

  7. #7 |  kant | 

    I could see the DA getting sued for violation of the 5th amendment. he’s basically saying “if you follow the law i’m going to prosecute you for braking the law”. although i guess i’m not sure if this would be considered self incrimination.

  8. #8 |  Matt Moore | 

    Technically he’s not telling them to break the law. According to the article, it’s illegal to teach abstinence-only, but it’s not illegal to just skip sex ed entirely. Not that I’m defending the DA, mind you… he’s a stupid jerk.

  9. #9 |  God's Own Drunk | 

    I’m just curious how he arrives at the idea that teaching sex ed promotes sexual assault of children.

  10. #10 |  Kevin | 

    #6

    I think less pleasure *is* his idea of sexual pleasure….

  11. #11 |  M | 

    He should just publish a list of good facts and bad facts so teachers can just build their curriculum around that instead of having to guess what he supports.

  12. #12 |  JS | 

    Cynical in CA | April 7th, 2010 at 12:38 pm
    I am very pleased to see the State in autocannibalization mode. Perhaps there will be an infinite feedback loop of prosecutions and counter-prosecutions that will result in the State destroying itself permanently. One can only hope.”

    I know. I dream of the day when one police force’s jurisdiction overlaps another’s and they start arresting each other.

  13. #13 |  spudbeach | 

    Ah — Wisconsin. One of the few states where anybody having sex with somebody under the age of 18 is breaking the law. Yep, anybody — two 17 year olds getting it on are breaking the law. The DA doesn’t even have to wait until one of them is a day over 18 and the other is a day under 18 — why wait to put them both into jail?

    But seriously, how can you expect a DA from a jerkwater county (total population 24,316) to actually be reasonable and give up the power to jail whoever he wants? Never forget that the most dangerous person in law is the prosecutor. Looks like this one is earning it.

  14. #14 |  Bob | 

    God’s Own Drunk:

    “I’m just curious how he arrives at the idea that teaching sex ed promotes sexual assault of children.”

    Because if the kids know about sex education, then they’ll have less of a chance of getting pregnant and being pressured into getting married. since the kids won’t be doing god’s work, (by getting pregnant and subsequently getting married) they must be being assaulted.

    See how this works? If you’re a Christian guy, kept in complete ignorance about sex and birth control, you will have no defense against a young Christian woman who wants to marry you. Opps! She’s pregnant. Bam, you’re married. It must be god’s will!

    The ‘assault’ angle is certainly hyperbole “Son, are you a Good Christian ™ or are you an assaulter of women?” designed to guilt people into marriage.

    Sex education, and it’s inherent message of NOT getting pregnant until you’re ready messes that system up.

    Spudbeach:

    Let’s look at the wording of that:
    “A person accused and convicted of having sex with a minor child who is at least 16 years of age and not yet 18 years of age, but is not the defendant’s spouse is guilty…”

    Just another of the hammers used to force people to get married in the land of the Religious Right.

  15. #15 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I believe in serious punishments such as
    flogging for teaching, talking or even thinking about …you know.

  16. #16 |  Juice | 

    Whatever you may think of that law, it is the law.

    Normally, I would say that teachers refusing to teach certain things, and in doing so would violate some law, would fit nicely under civil disobedience, but this situation is complicated due to the fact that the teachers are employees of the state and this law is a sort of employer enforced rule.

    The DA is telling employees to violate an employer enforced rule here, whether you want to call it a law or not. I’m not saying all employer enforced rules are to be followed, especially those that harm people, but in this case the DA is out of line and probably not within his jurisdiction.

  17. #17 |  Agitated | 

    “Actually, it’s probably more akin to telling students that if are going to drink, you should have a designated driver. Or to drink where you plan to sleep.”

    Contraception as harm reduction. Pretty fucked up way of putting it, Radley.

    I think I prefer the DA’s analogy, however off the mark.

  18. #18 |  Cynical in CA | 

    #13 | spudbeach — “Ah — Wisconsin.”

    One of my favorite lines in all of filmdom is from Stripes:

    John Winger: “C’mon, it’s Czechoslovakia. We zip in, we pick ‘em up, we zip right out again. We’re not going to Moscow. It’s Czechoslovakia. It’s like going into Wisconsin.”

    Russell Ziskey: “Well I got the shit kicked out of me in Wisconsin once. Forget it!”

  19. #19 |  JS | 

    Sergeant Hulka as he jumps out of the back of the truck, “Fuck this”

  20. #20 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I don’t know which is worse: that some could be so corrupt that they would pursue such idiocy simply to garner votes or that they are actually so intellectually challenged that they actually believe what they’re preaching.

    Mencken’s Law says it best: Whenever A annoys or injures B on the pretense of saving or improving X, A is a scoundrel.

  21. #21 |  Sky | 

    Matt @ #8 “According to the article, it’s illegal to teach abstinence-only”

    Really?

    Under the Bush Administration for the Fiscal Year 2008, the federal government allocated $176 million through three separate funding streams for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. For Fiscal Year 2009, the total amount allocated was just over $160 million.

    Since it’s alleged to be illegal, can “we” the people get our money back? ASAP!

  22. #22 |  dingdongdugong | 

    guy is a closet pedo

  23. #23 |  Matt Moore | 

    #20 – We’re talking about different things here. The article states that sex education can’t be taught if it doesn’t include instruction on condoms… in Wisconsin. The law is evidently of recent vintage.

    And no, you can’t have your money back.

  24. #24 |  David Chesler | 

    Just being literal here. In the early 1960s, Esquire published a book called “What Every Young Man Should Know” and one of the first things it taught was how to make a martini.

    The more I learned how to mix drinks the less I thought drinks were a legal drug delivery system, and the more I thought they were something to be savored. And I probably drank, got drunk, less although it’s not statistically significant.

  25. #25 |  Radley Balko | 

    Guess I don’t see what’s so “fucked up” about the analogy.

    Teen pregnancy and drunk driving accidents are both generally undesired but possible consequences of the behavior in question.

    In both cases, you’re informing the teens of precautions they can take to avoid those consequences.

  26. #26 |  Mattocracy | 

    Is it any wonder why our kids are so fucked up with assholes like District Attorney Scott Southworth setting the example. Sex ed equals promoting sex, which is really the same thing as sexual assualt. With that kind of reasoning, you can’t go wrong in life!

  27. #27 |  Mattocracy | 

    And please tell me it isn’t really against the law for minors to have sex in Wisconsin. I can’t believe we have a little Iran on the far side of the Great Lakes.

  28. #28 |  Bob | 

    Mattocracy:

    “And please tell me it isn’t really against the law for minors to have sex in Wisconsin. I can’t believe we have a little Iran on the far side of the Great Lakes.”

    It is. It’s a “Class A Misdemeanor” to have sex with someone who is at least 16, but not yet 18. With the caveat that the ‘perp’ is not married to the ‘victim’. For purposes of criminal prosecution, a 17 year old is considered to be an ‘adult’. As such, if a 17 year old male does a 16 year old female, he’s in potential prosecution territory.

    (Class A Misdemeanor in Wisconsin sports a 9 month jail term and / or up to a 10,000 dollar fine. Repeat offenses pushes the max to 2 years)

    More importantly… let’s consider why. Is it to punish under age sex? No, the statute specifically allows sex with a minor you’re married to. If the core intent was to stop under age sex, then the marriage consent age would be 18 as well.

    Delving deeper, we find that with parental permission, people as young as 16 can marry.

    So, if that 17 year old were to agree to marry the 16 year old he knocked up, and the parents approve, he has an out to avoid jail time. Or put another way, the parents have a lever to use on a desirable suitor to “Make him do the right thing” or on the undesirable suitor to get him away from their daughter.

    So, what we have, in my opinion, is an ad hoc collection of statutes designed Not as initial intent, but more as an evolution) to punish suitors that are ‘undesirable’ to the girl’s parents: people in the wrong religion, the wrong political ideology, etc.

    It’s all based on religion.

  29. #29 |  Scott | 

    Someone should teach those kids how to make mixed drinks because they drink some really crappy stuff. Throw in some beer and whiskey appreciation classes, and we could really turn things around in this country.

  30. #30 |  Bodie | 

    Man, this is contrapment, yo.

  31. #31 |  JOR | 

    “Actually, it’s probably more akin to telling students that if are going to drink, you should have a designated driver. Or to drink where you plan to sleep.”

    Since the guy seems to think that sex for pleasure is wrong, for him, it’s more like advising someone who is going to go on a burglary spree, in spite of the dangers, to wear a mask. The problem, from his perspective, isn’t that sex can cause STD’s or pregnancy – in fact, from a perspective like his, that’s a good thing, because sex (for pleasure) is bad in and of itself, and STD’s and pregnancy are a disincentive.

    (And yes, I agree, that’s an incredibly stupid belief to hold).

  32. #32 |  Frank | 

    @27 Sorry, Matt.

    http://www.ageofconsent.com/wisconsin.htm

    Under 16 is a felony, 16-18 is a misdemeanor.

  33. #33 |  Bob | 

    Frank:

    I hate to nit pick. Ok, I don’t hate to nit pick… that should be obvious by now. But that page isn’t completely accurate. The language “but is not the defendant’s spouse” was added at some point.

    The editor’s comment about “Age of consent” is correct, for unmarried people the stipulation that the misdemeanor does not apply to married people was added, I assume, by pressure to support underage marriage. The age of consent for married people is 16.

  34. #34 |  Andrew Williams | 

    Get yer biscuits in the oven and yer buns in bed!

    or, Life/Sex according to Scott Southworth

  35. #35 |  j a higginbotham | 

    Nothing wrong with the designated driver/no drive analogy for drinking. PZ Myers’ analogy (compared to seatbelt usage) is flawed since non-drivers should still wear seatbelts.

  36. #36 |  GreginOz | 

    Having sex for (shudder) PLEASURE?!? Satan’s Spawn!!! Oh Lord, send us The Rapture NOW, before more minors have filthy, fonicatin’ pleasure! Heck, I mean, it’s fer da chillen!

  37. #37 |  Frank | 

    @22 Just don’t try to point that out on a “mainstream news” website, the comment will be deleted.

  38. #38 |  David Chesler | 

    I usually ask here, since we’ve learned that marriage is not a defense to rape, and statutory rape is because minors can’t consent to sex, how is it that having sex with your underage spouse isn’t rape?

    JOR’s analysis is correct. And I didn’t see where the DA actually threatened prosecution in the letter. But some people can’t hold two thoughts in their head at the same time (like it’s better for you to avoid sex, but if you don’t, it’s better to avoid pregnancy and disease.)

  39. #39 |  Will | 

    http://offender.doc.state.wi.us/public/
    we have 16 sex offenders in this little town of 2500.(54456)
    Several are not listed as they were committed before computer data bases started keeping track.
    One of these pos has been on the school board and adopted 3 sexually abuse girls.
    I was born and raised on the other side of the river, so I ask. Is it something in the water here that makes these normal looking people such POS?

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