New sex education law affects mostly rural schools - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

New sex education law affects mostly rural schools

MADISON (WKOW) -- The Healthy Youth Act will change the way many Wisconsin schools teach their students about sex by banning abstinence-only education from all public schools that teach sex education.

While many schools in more urban areas already include contraception in their sex education curriculum, the bill will change programs in more rural districts.

27 News spoke with students from Monroe High School and Appleton East High School who say their schools touched only briefly on things like STDs, and they hardly mentioned condoms or birth control.

"The only talk of contraception that we had was based on the failure rates [of contraceptives]," said Maria Peeples, a junior at Appleton East.

Brandon Wenger, a senior at Monroe High School, says his sex education was minimal at best.

"What they teach is just basic information about STDs. They don't really teach how to protect yourself from them, other than just saying, 'Don't have sex,'" said Wenger.

These students' message is clear: abstinence-only education simply doesn't work.

"I've seen people contract STDs and spread them around to their friends, simply because they don't know better," said Wenger.

"Students are very left in the dark because they don't know where to get that information, so then they turn to their friends and a lot of times, friends don't have the accurate information, which just causes a lot of problems for students," said Peeples.

Opponents of the new law believe teaching safe sex will only inspire teens to be more sexually active, but these teens disagree.

"Being a human being is what makes you interested in sex, and it's part of who we are, it's part of everyone, so we need to talk about it. We can't just ignore it," said Katie Cronmiller, a sophomore at Appleton East.

"Everyone knows we're supposed to stay abstinent, we're not supposed to have sex until we're married, but the statistics in high school show us that students are having sex," said Peeples.

According to the Dane County Youth Commission, 44 percent of high school students in Dane County reported they were sexually active last year. But of those teens, only 61 percent used a condom.

The bill does not ban abstinence-based education and even encourages it.

"Pregnancy prevention includes contraceptives, but it also includes how to talk to your parents, it also includes how to be safe with your peers, and it also includes abstinence being the first and very best way to prevent pregnancy," said Rep. Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee).

Monroe district officials insist they provide comprehensive sexual education already, and the new law will not change its curriculum.

Parents can choose not to have their kids in classes that teach sex education, as long as they sign a form saying they will teach their child about sex at home.

Plus, it's up to the individual districts whether to include sex education in their curricula at all, but if they choose not to, they must notify all parents first.

Online reporting by Jamie Hersch
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