Teaching Sex Ed in Wisconsin? DA Warns You Could be Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor

Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth ()
Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth (WISC)

MAUSTON, Wis. (CBS/AP) Teaching sex education is the law in Wisconsin. But a recent letter to school districts from Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth has some health teachers considering a career change - or at the very least, adding criminal defense attorneys to their speed dial.

That's because the letter from the socially conservative, evangelical Christian Southworth, appears to threaten teachers with the risk of criminal charges if they follow a new law mandating comprehensive sex education.

Southworth says he did not intend to threaten local teachers according to the Juneau County Star Times, although his letter seems to link teaching students about safe sex and contraceptives with encouraging sexual assaults on minors.

"[The Healthy Youth Act] requires schools to provide instructions on how to utilize contraception. But it is a crime to engage in sexual intercourse with any child under the age of 18...[and] Wisconsin's Criminal Code [says] anyone who contributes to the delinquency of a minor can be charged."

"I'm not threatening anyone," Southworth told the paper. "The letter was designed to warn them of the law when this act was put into place."

But at least one Mauston High School health teacher says he isn't going to stop doing his job and, he says, he knows from experience that ignoring a problem won't make it go away.

Mike Taake has taught sex education for 30 years, and says he has used both abstinence-only and comprehensive sex ed. He says that students need all the information they can get about sex to make the best choices and that just telling them to wait doesn't work.

Taake says the letter feels like a huge step backward for education and he intends to continue to teach contraception and everything that comes with it, regardless of the possible criminal repercussions.

"It's not just teaching them how birth control works. It's everything else that goes with it," Taake said. "To arrest me for teaching correct birth control and the student makes the wrong decision and gets pregnant, that's not my decision."