Wisconsin Sex Ed:  There’s an Elephant in the Room

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It’s become pretty challenging, trying to cut through the rhetoric, to understand what’s actually going on with the Wisconsin Sex Ed bill.  At first glance, the political posturing and contradictions are bewildering—until you look at the raw data on teen pregnancy and STDs, and realize that everyone is tiptoeing around an elephant in the room.

Some of the Background:

In 2010, Wisconsin’s liberal legislature passed a liberal sex ed bill, called the Healthy Youth Act, or HYA. Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider, gets to design the curriculum.

In 2011, the new, now conservative legislature which was elected in Wisconsin in November 2010, has recently proposed a modification to the liberal sex ed bill, which would allow conservative communities to opt out of the most progressive requirements of the “old” 2010 sex ed bill (HYA), such as opting out of the condom demonstration in the classroom requirement.  This proposal is called Senate Bill 237,  or SB 237, or Strong Communities Healthy Kids Act or SCHKA

Outside the SB 237 Senate Hearing (Photos of Senate hearing by Tom Reitz)

More details:

Conservative objections to HYA (now in use in Wisconsin):

1. HYA requires Sex Ed with a liberal and permissive spin or no sex ed at all:
If sex ed is taught, every community in Wisconsin must teach ALL elements of the curriculum outlined in HYA , including the demonstration of condom use in the classroom.  Misleading phrases such as “medically accurate” and “age appropriate” are used in HYA to require the teaching of detailed explicit sexual practices and methods, including the practices previously considered by law, and still considered by numerous religions, to be deviant, unhealthy, risky, and damaging to society.

SB 237 hearing: Standing Room Only

2. HYA requires the teaching of barrier methods (demonstration of condom use in the classroom) in ALL sex ed programs.

  • The teaching of barrier methods (e.g. condom use) makes NO sense from the conservative point of view; if early sexual activity is risky and damaging, why would schools train you how to do it?  If schools don’t give “safe-cracking without being caught” lessons, why would schools give “engaging in risk-taking behavior while reducing the risk somewhat” lessons?”
    The condom lesson wipes out the abstinence lesson pretty effectively, telling students “you should not do this, but we’ll show you how to do it with a bit less risk attached.”

3. HYA does not permit the teaching of abstinence.

Representative Tamara Grigsby (D), author of HYA

HYA does require the MENTION of abstinence as one option, but does not permit more detailed instruction and specifically prohibits statements indicating that abstinence before marriage is a superior approach to promiscuity and to condom use.  By requiring the detailed teaching of barrier methods, but forbidding the teaching of abstinence only, the curriculum has been constructed in violation of the beliefs of more than 2/3 of America.  The national American preference for abstinence before marriage is not simply superstitious religious belief, as liberals would like to portray, but is based on common sense and on science, just as CDC statements on the proven health benefits of abstinence are based on common sense and science.

4. Under HYA, Curriculum is no longer determined by local school district committees, but by national liberal groups.

Senator Mary Lazich (R), author of SB 237

The local school district committees in the past included local clergy and advisors, reflecting values of the community.  But under HYA, curriculum is now determined by national liberal groups including the American Public Health Association, which publicly advocates partial birth abortion (killing of a child after ¾ of the child has been born) or by Planned Parenthood.

5. No “bias” against sexual orientation/homosexuality/premarital sex is permitted by HYA.

Premarital and homosexual sexual activities are statistically associated with increased incidence of sexually transmitted disease.  It is negligent, unscientific and medically inaccurate to fail to inform students of these facts.  Under HYA, sex ed in Wisconsin does not mention the elevated health dangers resulting from premarital sex and homosexual sex.

High School Student testifies in favor of SB 237

6. HYA contains internal contradictions, which are impossible to implement.
HYA forbids the teaching of any material that reflects disapproval of sexually active students.  Hence, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) findings, such as abstinence being the only sure way to avoid STDs cannot not mentioned, since it promotes disapproval of sexually active students.

HYA simultaneously requires the teaching of sex ed to be  “medically accurate.” But the curriculum cannot be “medical accurate if it excludes the fact that abstinence is the only guaranteed way of avoiding STD’s, as stated by the CDC.

The curriculum also cannot be “medically accurate” if it excludes facts such as the elevated frequency of STD’s in sexually active and in gay populations.

The frequency of medical and psychological disorders associated with a person’s choice of sexual activity is a crucial element of sex education, which is eliminated by the Healthy Youth Act.  This suppression of scientific information turns the HYA (Healthy Youth Act) into an oxymoron (self-contradiction).  More accurately, HYA should be labeled UYA (UNhealthy Youth Act).

HYA has generated some internal inconsistencies by attempting to claim that only the liberal point of view is

Protester's sign suggests homosexuality as a solution to pregnancy.

“medically accurate.”  It neglects to acknowledge that numerous scientists and medical experts proclaim the obvious fact that abstinence before marriage as the guaranteed approach for protecting our children from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.  There is no “medically accurate” position agreed upon by all scientists, and if there were to be scientific consensus, it would be the CDC position of abstinence before marriage.

HYA Summary:

HYA requirements require the implementation of LIBERAL sex education in all Wisconsin Public Schools, while excluding CONSERVATIVE sex education.  This is particularly disturbing, since a recent U.S. government study has shown that 70% of American parents and 60% of American teens favor abstinence before marriage.

When 2/3 of America and the CDC agree on the value of abstinence before marriage, a radical minority with a different opinion (Democrats in Wisconsin) should not be allowed to exclude abstinence from Wisconsin’s sex ed curriculum

Senator Glenn Grothman (R)

Modifications proposed to HYA:

Senate Bill 237; Strong Communities Healthy Kids Act (SB237; SCHKA)-  some Sex Ed changes are introduced

Primary changes to HYA which are introduced by SB 237:

  • Abstinence training (not just the mention of abstinence) is required in all schools under SB237.  It is required to teach that abstinence is the only guaranteed way of avoiding STD’s and pregnancy (as indicated by the CDC
  • Detailed barrier method training (e.g. condom use) is an option that can be chosen by the local school board, but is not required.  This enables conservative communities such as small towns with different values to those predominating in liberal Madison, to eliminate the teaching of condom use from the classroom, giving parents the option to provide “birds and bees” instruction to our children at home.  SB 237 still allows liberal communities such as Madison to include condom use instruction in the classroom

Liberals object to Senate Bill 237, “Strong Communities Healthy Kids Act

Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D)

(SCHKA):

A Senate hearing was held October 19, 2011 on SB 237, to collect testimony on the proposed bill.

Objections to SB 237

Some objections voiced by legislators during the Senate hearing:

  • Wisconsin needs to stem the public health crisis, the epidemic increase in teen STDs.  Democrats believe that mandatory barrier method training of HYA would help to stem the crisis.  Numbers like 41% and 46% sexually active teens and 25% of girls having STDs were mentioned.
  • Liberal legislators stated that abstinence training does not work.
  • Abstinence is considered by liberals to be a backward and ineffective religious attitude, which is not “medically accurate.”
  • There is only one scientific and “medically accurate” way to educate kids about sex, the HYA way, and it includes “teaching of barrier methods” (condom use).
  • Liberals voiced the opinion that condom use must be taught in schools because those advocating abstinence education are afraid to talk about sex in the home.

Dubious Claims?

Senator Chris Larson (D)

These claims of epidemic spread of STDs and promiscuity in our schools are unsupported by the study that was used to make these claims (CDC Adolescent Report- Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Report).

Indeed, the liberal Democrats probably have not studied the report, nor other CDC data, nor Wisconsin Department of Health Services data, which not only fail to support the claims of epidemic STD’s in teens, but show that ALL of the above Democrat objections to SB 237 voiced at the hearing are untrue.

Results of the CDC Adolescent Survey

At the outset, the authors of the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Report (YRBSR) acknowledge that minority students were intentionally oversampled and overrepresented in the report.  In addition, participation was voluntary and anonymous.  About one third of schools and students failed to participate, and often one third of questions were not answered.  The authors stated “the extent of under-reporting or over-reporting of behaviors cannot be determined.”  There was no mechanism for estimating whether students provided true answers.

Senator Timothy Cullen (D)

Indeed, the YRBSR results were pretty shocking; 72% of teen respondents had tried alcohol; 46% smoked; 37% used marijuana; 34% had more than 4 sexual partners; 24% participated in binge drinking (5 or more drinks at once); 23% were offered drugs on school property;  18% carried a weapon; 14% made a plan for attempting suicide; 11% were in a physical fight; 10% experienced date violence; 6% were injured with a weapon on school property; 6% had sex before age 13;  6% tried cocaine; 5% were injured in a physical fight and needed medical attention; 4% tried methamphetamines; 3% tried heroin; 2% injected an illegal drug.

Senator Alberta Darling (R)

If these teens were not exaggerating or over-reporting, then the last thing we need to be worried about is their sexual activity.  First we need to address the suicides, physical violence at school, weapons, rapes, and drug use.  Then, if there is time for the lesser problems, we could work on the sexual activity.  And condoms are not highly likely to solve that problem—when binge drinking and drugs are involved, as well as date violence, condoms are wishful thinking.

If the level of risk taking behavior reported in the CDC adolescent survey were to be correct, the STD and pregnancy rates should, indeed be soaring.

But they are not.

WI Dept of Health Report

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This is clearly the case, as can be seen from State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services STD surveillance reports from 1996 to 2010.

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The results are summarized here:

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Results of State of Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services  Reports:

STDs youth, aged 15-19;

Year Total STD Rate White Rate African American Rate Hispanic Rate Asian Rate
2010 2.3%

(9300 cases)

0.7% 10.1% 1.6% 0.6%
2009 2.2%

(8700 cases)

0.6% 9.1% 1.4% 0.6%
2008 2.3%

(9300 cases)

0.7% 10.9% 1.5% 0.6%
2007 Not avialible 0.7% 12.1% NA 0.6%
2006 (9600 cases) 0.7% 13.2% NA 0.7%
2005 2.3%

(9500 cases)

0.7% 13.2% 0.6%
2004 (9200 cases)
2003 (8800 cases)
2002 (9000 cases)
2001 (8300 cases)
2000 (8400 cases) 0.7% 11.8% 0.8%
1999 (8000 cases)
1998 (8000 cases)
1997 (6300 cases)
1996 (6300 cases)

What the Table shows:

  • Clearly, if 40-46% of kids are engaging in risky sex, as claimed by the sponsors of HYA, the STD/pregnancy rates would be much higher than 2.3%.
  • There is no “epidemic” of STDs among teens.
  • STD rates for the whole population hover around2%, a constant since 1996.
  • STD rates for African American teens have actually dropped in the last few years, i.e. before HYA was passed.
  • There IS a striking difference between racial groups, with African American teens having 14 to 19 times higher STD rates than white teens. THIS is the ELEPHANT in the room.  And to look at the CDC results by location (not shown), the ELEPHANT spends a lot of time in Milwaukee.

The ELEPHANT in the Room

If there is one group of teens with 1,400% to 1,900% higher incidence of STDs than other teens, why is nobody mentioning it?

Is it politically incorrect to mention it?

Meanwhile, while we all worry about political correctness, tens of thousands of young people’s lives are going down the tubes?

This should be making headlines, and we should be marshaling all our forces to attack this problem.  If anybody cares about these kids, we need to determine WHY they are suffering such high STD infection levels compared to the rates of other ethnic groups.

The other problem: teen pregnancy

Statistics relating to the other problem, teen pregnancy, similarly show no “epidemics,” but IMPROVEMENTS in recent years, improvements which occurred BEFORE passage of HYA.  The difference in teen pregnancy rates between African Americans and whites are not as large as the differences in STD rates; African American pregnancy rates are about two times higher than white rates:

CDC Births: Preliminary Data for 2009:

Year Total birth rate White Black Hispanic Asian
2009 3.9% 2.6% 5.9% 7.0% 1.5%
2007 4.2% 2.7% 6.4% 8.2% 1.7%
2005 4.0% 2.6% 6.1% 8.2% 1.7%
1991 6.2% 4.3% 11.8% 10.5% 2.7%

What’s the Solution?

This Elephant will not go away by instructing the NON-African American kids of Wisconsin in condom use.  What can the Democrats be thinking?

Clearly, Swiss kids in New Glarus, WI do not need to learn condom use.

Polish kids in Mosinee, WI do not need to learn condom use.

The HYA bill is evidently just a politically correct attempt to address the higher rate of of STDs among African American teens.

According to the CDC questionnaire mentioned above, STDs are the least of our teenagers’ problems, and until we figure out how to solve the more serious problems, remembering a condom is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

And when STDs, pregnancy and sexual activity ARE discussed, the teaching of abstinence has a much better track record than teaching condom use.

Abstinence Training

Abstinence training actually has been proven to work better than sex ed.   This is something else the Democrat legislators questioned and tried to ridicule, when arguing against SB 237.  But the science, the “medically accurate” information says that abstinence works better than sex ed, and SB 237 is better than HYA.

A ground-breaking long-term study, which followed 662 African-American public middle school students between 2001 and 2004, has shown that abstinence education was much more effective in reducing future sexual activity than sex ed classes that included information about contraceptives.

The authors of the study concluded that theory-based abstinence-only interventions may have an important role in preventing adolescent sexual involvement.

This work was published by the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Feb 2010.

More Questions

Why is nobody addressing the catastrophic rate of ALL problems among African-American students? Why is nobody trying to identify the main source of those problems?
Could the lack of adult time spent with teens be a contributory factor, which should be addressed?
Could the violence-and-sex rap culture be partially responsible?

I know from teaching my own children, that when the risks are explained, and options are presented, young people usually make very good choices.  Perhaps nobody wants to invest the time in communicating with and persuading these young people?

Why are Democrats misquoting data in an effort to further condom instruction in the schools of Wisconsin?
It is possible that the ardor of the arguments presented by the Senator and Representative from Milwaukee at the SB237 hearing stemmed from passion for the youth of Milwaukee, where the problems are much intensified.

But what about all the other Democrats?  Many may not be scientists, but among them is there not one who can read charts and graphs and can see that there is no STD crisis, no pregnancy crisis?
Why are they pushing this sexualization of our children unnecessarily?

Are Democrats simply interested in liberalizing our culture as quickly as possible, no matter what the cost to our youth?
Do we want a generation of kids being taught that self-control is not required to succeed in life?

Bottom Line

The bottom line:

  • SB 237 should be passed, to enable all of Wisconsin’s children to have the scientifically proven advantage of abstinence training.
  • Wisconsin (and the rest of America) should drop the political correctness game and acknowledge the Elephant in the room, the conditions that many African American kids find themselves in daily.  Once we are willing to acknowledge and discuss the problem, we might actually come up with some solutions.

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Senate Hearing PHOTOS by Tom Reitz