MADISON -- On March 14, the State Assembly approved legislation to provide local districts more flexibility in teaching human growth and development classes. The bill also permits abstinence-based instruction.
The Assembly approved Senate Bill 237, sponsored by Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) and Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt, (R-Fond du Lac) on a vote of 60-34. The legislation restores the flexibility and local control, which school districts enjoyed up until the beginning of the 2011-12 academic year that allowed them to offer different approaches to human growth and development instruction.
The WCC supported the legislation. Associate Director Barbara Sella described the proposal as “measured, tolerant, and inclusive legislation.”
Sella also noted that under current law, school districts only have two options: either they must offer comprehensive sex education, or nothing at all.
“By contrast, SB 237 gives school districts the option of offering: 1) comprehensive sex education, 2) abstinence-based sex education, 3) both comprehensive and abstinence-based education, or 4) no instruction,” Sella explained. “SB 237 also gives school districts the option of instructing pupils in single-sex courses. Finally, it strengthens local control by revising the composition of the ad hoc advisory committee to ensure that it truly reflects the wishes of the community.”
SB 237 also recommends more topics for schools to cover, such as: prenatal development, the nature and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, adoption, prenatal and postnatal care, personal responsibility, the benefits of marriage, and the skills to remain abstinent.
“At the same time,” Sella added, “the bill retains important topics in the current law, such as prevention of bullying, resources for survivors of sexual abuse and assault, criminal penalties, and sex offender registration.”
Echoing her testimony before the Assembly Education Committee, Sella emphasized the importance of sound education in this area.
“What we teach our children about sexuality today will help determine the kind of society we will live in tomorrow. The best education teaches children to develop their unique character and potential, to increase their self-worth and self-restraint, and to grow in their capacity for love and responsibility,” she concluded.
In addition to the WCC, organizations that supported the legislation included Wisconsin Family Action, Pro-Life Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Right to Life.