Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

The 2009-10 legislative session review: Sex education


Victories came at the end of the 2009-10 general legislative session in the failure of major, controversial bills to gain approval. However, one significant piece of legislation unable to be blocked was a new
law that guts abstinence education and paves the way for a radical expansion of the kinds of issues that can be discussed in human growth and development classes.

Governor Doyle signed legislation into law that requires public schools that teach sex education to include instruction about the use of condoms and discussion about sexually transmitted diseases. The new law is a dramatic departure from current procedures that has already angered and upset many parents.

Under previous Wisconsin law, local school boards were allowed to determine if and how sex education is taught to students in their school districts. The new law that I voted against eliminates the autonomy local school districts did have to provide the instruction they considered to be the best for their students. School districts will no longer be allowed to teach an abstinence-only curriculum. A wide-ranging sex education curriculum will be established, including non-judgmental instruction on alternative lifestyles and behaviors.

During the 2005 legislative session, I authored legislation that became law (signed by the same Governor Doyle) that required school boards that chose to provide sex education to present abstinence as the preferred choice of behavior. I authored the abstinence legislation because there is only one method that is 100 percent effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. It is abstinence. That is indisputable. Health professionals agree that abstinence is the healthiest choice for teens. The abstinence law is a common sense approach to an adolescent health issue.  In order to make the choice to be abstinent, teens must have access to abstinence instruction and be equipped with accurate information about the consequences resulting from sexual activity. The legislation Governor Doyle signed February 24, 2010 will make opportunities for teens to hear this critically important message far less likely.

On behalf of the West Allis-West Milwaukee school district that requested a positive change in the legislation, I proposed an amendment on the floor of the state Senate that would have allowed a school district that offered a comprehensive sex education curriculum and an abstinence-only curriculum to have the option of choosing an abstinence-only program. The West Allis-West Milwaukee school district used to offer the two options to parents. I found their request to be a reasonable compromise. My amendment was rejected by the state Senate along party lines.

Another troubling provision prohibits school districts from being judgmental or biased against sexually active students. My colleagues and I that opposed the legislation emphasized this is a logical scenario to be judgmental. The emphatic instruction to children is that they should not be having sex, period.

A significant change was made to the legislation under an amendment that requires school boards that provide sex education to instruct students about: a)  the criminal penalties for engaging in sexual activities involving a child and  b) sex offender registration requirements. The amendment passed unanimously and is the only bright spot in a highly risky, and yes, dangerous new law that guts abstinence instruction, mandates the instruction of elements of sex education that will make many parents uncomfortable and angry, and removes local control from local school districts. State government should not be telling local school districts and parents it knows best, especially about an issue as sensitive as sex education.

Hopefully, this law can be repealed during the next session.

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