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UPDATE: Wis. Assembly Passes Sex Education Law Changes

UPDATED Wednesday, March 14, 2012 --- 6:20 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Republican-controlled Wisconsin state Assembly has passed a bill that would require schools to teach abstinence as the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

The measure passed early Wednesday morning is backed by Pro-Life Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Catholic Conference and opposed by Planned Parenthood and the Wisconsin Medical Society.

It would allow schools to teach abstinence-only classes, which was banned under a 2010 law passed by Democrats. No contraception education would be required.

Assembly Democrats argued that changing the sex education law would increase the risk of more sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancies and other problems for young people. Republican backers say it gives school more freedom over their sex education instruction.

The bill previously passed the Senate and now heads to Gov. Scott Walker.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Tuesday, March 13, 2012 --- 7:00 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin lawmakers are taking on a bill that would make teaching about contraception optional in sex education curriculum around the state.

The state Assembly is scheduled to vote on the bill Tuesday. The legislation would stress abstinence education.

Supporters say it gives school districts control over how they teach children in their communities. Opponents say it would force conservative ideology into the state's schools.

The bill passed in the Senate last year. If it clears the Republican-controlled Assembly, the measure would then go to Gov. Scott Walker.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Wednesday, January 18, 2012 --- 1:10 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A contentious Republican-backed proposal that would stress abstinence education over contraception use is headed for a vote in the Wisconsin state Assembly.

The Assembly's education committee passed the bill Wednesday on a party line vote. It would rewrite a Democratic-backed law enacted two years ago that requires Wisconsin schools to offer a multi-faceted curriculum that also teaches about contraception.

Several Democrats expressed disappointment in the proposal. But Republicans defended its emphasis on local communities' choice for how to teach sex education.

The Senate passed the bill last year amid vocal opposition from several public health groups. Anti-abortion groups support the legislation.

The bill could come up for a vote in the Republican-controlled Assembly as early as next week.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Thursday, November 3, 2011 --- 7:40 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Senate approved a Republican-backed bill late Wednesday that would require sex education teachers to stress abstinence over contraception, despite complaints that the measure would leave children ill-informed and do little to curtail teen pregnancy and sexual diseases.

The legislation dramatically rewrites a Democratic-backed law known as the Healthy Youth Act. Passed two years ago, the law requires schools that offer sex education to use a multi-faceted curriculum that includes instruction on the proper use of contraceptives.

Under the bill, school districts choosing to teach sex education must emphasize that abstinence is the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and disease. It also allows teachers to ignore contraception completely.

Democrats called the legislation foolish and unrealistic, but Republicans forced the measure through Wednesday night on a 17-15 party-line vote. It now goes to the state Assembly, though it's unclear whether the chamber will consider the bill this year.

The bill's author, Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, one of the most conservative members of the GOP caucus, stressed that the measure doesn't impose an outright ban on contraception instruction. Instead, she said, it gives school districts more control over their sex education curriculums -- even though the measure contains its own list of mandates.

"This is about small government at its best. This is about local control," Lazich said.

But Democrats said the plan was an attempt to force conservative ideology into the state's schools. They insisted that children deserved more than talk about abstinence in an age where they're constantly pressured to have sex through Internet images and texting.

"To pretend (children aren't having sex) is absolutely foolish," Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said. "This is such a 19th-century mentality piece of legislation ... you'd think we'd want to get out in front of this and make sure they learn properly there are consequences to their choices."

Republicans have bristled over the Healthy Youth Act since it became law. Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth, a Republican and evangelical Christian, made headlines last year when he said he was so convinced that teaching contraception would lead to more teen sex that he would charge teachers who taught it with contributing to the delinquency of minors.

But now Republicans have control of state government, and have an opportunity to alter the law.

Major changes to the law are included in Lazich's bill, which is backed by Pro-Life Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Catholic Conference. In addition to emphasizing abstinence, the plan would require sex education teachers to teach parental responsibilities and the "socioeconomic" benefits of marriage. It also dictates the makeup of parent-teacher-clergy boards that advise school districts on sexual education and loosens the definition of medically accurate information.

"So much for science," lamented Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay.

Democrats successfully convinced Republicans to amend the bill Wednesday to require that curriculums provide information about HIV, but they still labeled the bill a head-in-the-sand approach to sex education. Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, likened the bill to urging children to avoid car accidents without teaching driver's education.

Lazich shot back, saying Democrats were misconstruing the bill. But Republicans offered little more in the way of a defense.

It's unclear whether majority Republicans in the Assembly will have enough time to consider the bill this year. Thursday is the last scheduled floor session before lawmakers adjourn until January.

The bill is not on the Assembly's calendar, but Republican leaders there could take it up anyway. A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, said late Wednesday that he was unsure if the chamber would take up the bill this year.

Copyright 2011. The Associated Press.

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UPDATE: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 --- 8:11p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Senate has approved a Republican-backed plan that would require sex education teachers to stress abstinence over contraception.

Democrats say the legislation is foolish and unrealistic, but Republicans control the Senate and were able to force the measure through Wednesday night on a 17-15 party line vote. It now goes to the state Assembly.

The proposal would undo a Democratic-backed law that requires schools with sex education courses to offer contraception instruction.

The new measure wouldn't completely ban teaching about contraception. But it would require schools that offer sex education to stress abstinence as the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and disease.

It's unclear if Republicans in the Assembly will have time to consider the bill this year. Thursday is the last floor session scheduled until January.

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UPDATED Wednesday, November 2, 2011 --- 6:47 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Debate in the state Senate has bogged down, delaying a vote on a bill that would require sex education teachers to stress abstinence over contraception.

The Senate is expected to take up the measure sometime Wednesday evening or early Thursday morning, but the debate has bogged down over other bills and senators recessed early Wednesday evening for partisan strategy meetings. It's unclear when they'll get to the sex education legislation.

The GOP proposal would undo a Democratic-backed law that requires schools that offer sex education to offer contraception instruction. The measure doesn't create an outright ban on teaching contraception, but would require schools that offer sex education to stress abstinence as the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and disease.

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UPDATED Wednesday, November 2, 2011 --- 6:20 p.m.
Posted By: Barclay Pollak

According to Donna Behn every three years school districts across the state have to evaluate their human growth and development curriculum.

Last year Behn, who's the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Verona Area School District, says they did just that.

They found they were in line with current state law and only made minor changes to the curriculum like adding a section about the dangers of sexting.

A committee made up of parents, educators, the clergy and other community members volunteered to help VASD go through their curriculum and make sure they were compliant.

With the law possibly being changed Behn says they may have to go through that process all over again.

" It takes quite a while to get parents and clergy people and medical professionals that are willing to give up several meetings to come and help us out. "

Nothing is certain since we don't know what the final draft of the bill will look like.

But Behn says if they do have to go back and look at the curriculum again it could mean another six months of work.
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Posted Wednesday, November 2, 2011 --- 7:20 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin state Senate plans to vote on a bill that would require sex education classes in schools to stress abstinence over contraception.

The proposal up for a vote Wednesday in the Senate has been derided by Democrats and others as irresponsible. The measure would undo a Democratic-backed law that passed when they were in control of the Legislature two years ago.

That law requires sex education classes teach contraceptive use as part of a multi-faceted curriculum.

The bill up for a vote would remove the contraceptive instruction requirement and instead mandate that schools teach that abstinence is the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and disease. The benefits of marriage would also have to be taught.

The measure is support by anti-abortion groups and the Wisconsin Catholic Conference.

Copyright 2011. The Associated Press.


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