In February, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle signed the Healthy Youth Act, which requires the state's public schools to offer age-appropriate instruction in the use of contraceptives. That didn't sit well with Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth, who warned that complying with the new law could subject teachers and administrators at the five schools in his county to criminal penalties.
"To encourage children to have sex in any way, shape, or form is egregious," Southworth told the Associated Press. "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."
As Southworth reads the law, sex with a minor is sexual assault, even if the offender is also a minor. Teaching minors how to use contraception, then, amounts to encouraging sexual assault, which violates the state law against contributing to the delinquency of a child. The potential prison terms range from nine months to six years. "Moreover," Southworth wrote in a letter to school district leaders, "the teacher could be charged with this crime even if the child does not actually engage in the criminal behavior."
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services disagreed with Southworth's interpretation of the law. After his letter generated national ridicule, Southworth issued a clarification a week later, explaining that his intent was not to threaten teachers but to "warn" them about the possible ramifications of complying with the law.