UPDATE: Wis. Senate approves GOP-backed sex ed bill - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

UPDATE: Wis. Senate approves GOP-backed sex ed bill


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 bill dramatically rewrites a Democratic-backed measure 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.

Republicans have bristled over the 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.

Now, though, Republicans have control of state government. Under the new bill, schools that choose to offer sex education would no longer have to address contraception in any way. They would, however, be required to stress abstinence as the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and disease. They also would have to teach parent responsibilities and the benefits of marriage.

Democrats say the legislation is 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.

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.

Democrats painted the bill as an attempt to insert conservative ideology into the state's schools. They said children are constantly exposed to sex through texting and the Internet, and need as much accurate information as they can get. Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, challenged Republicans to read their grandchildren's text messages.

"To pretend (children aren't having sex) is absolutely foolish," Erpenbach 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."

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.

Republican leaders in the Assembly didn't immediately return messages late Wednesday inquiring about the bill's chances.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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