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Wisc. School District Considers Warning Students About Sexual Activity

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By guest blogger Gina Cairney

A sexual relationship by itself may not be a bad thing, but having sexual relations at school is wrong.

At least, that's what school administrators in the Janesville, Wisc., school district are considering telling their students, according to the Janesville Gazette, after five high school students were expelled from the district in the spring for "engaging in 'sexual activity' at school."

Just what kind of sexual activity, or how many incidents these students were involved in, or whether other students were involved isn't quite clear, but Yolanda Cargile, the director of student services, assured the Gazette that sexual assault was not involved.

The idea behind the warnings about sex, according to Cargile, is to promote the idea of "making better choices" but also not remaining silent when a situation is occurring.

The cautions are also being considered for parents so the students are getting a consistent message while in and out of school, the paper reports.

So, just what kind of activities can get students expelled? Well, that's not quite clear either. Short of assault, each case is different, Cargile said, but groping under clothing could be considered grounds for expulsion. It's up to the principals and superintendent to decide, she said.

But Janesville isn't the only district having issues with sex.

In 2012, Tennessee lawmakers added language to the state's abstinence-only sex education curriculum warning against "gateway sexual activity," according to the Huffington Post.

What does that mean exactly? The bill itself doesn't get into specifics, but the language has been interpreted to include discouraging any behavior that could potentially lead to sex, which the Huffington Post says includes kissing, hand-holding, and cuddling.

To put it bluntly, no touching.

And on Tuesday, a bill was ratified in North Carolina that would change the state's sex education curriculum, according to the Fayetteville Observer.

If the governor signs the bill, schools would be required to teach students about preventable causes of premature births in future pregnancies, including induced abortions and other activities like smoking, alcohol and drug use, and inadequate prenatal care, according to the paper.

Sen. Warren Daniel, a republican and sponsor of the bill, told a Senate Health Committee in May that the bill wasn't based on political ideology, but "based on the scientific evidence" that women who voluntarily have abortions are at future risk of preterm birth.

The "scientific evidence" however, is greatly disputed, according to Think Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, an independent nonpartisan education and advocacy organization.

At the same committee hearing, medical professionals testified against the measure, disagreeing with Daniel's assessment.

In his testimony, Dr. David Grimes, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina, called the bill a "state-sponsored ideology," and argued that Daniel's statement was "scientifically false," according to Think Progress.

Medical and health organizations like the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists "all have uniformly concluded that abortion does not cause prematurity," Grimes said.

A January poll from the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina may also suggest that there really is no need to amend the existing sex education requirements, Think Progress reports.

In a poll of 500 parents, 83 percent said they supported the Healthy Youth Act, a 2009 law that updated the state's sex education program to align more closely with parents' opinions and public health best practices.

This includes teaching middle- and high-school students about healthy relationships, teaching about contraceptives, and teaching medically accurate information regarding sex.

The survey also asked parents what best describes what they want for their oldest children, and 77 percent responded that although they wanted their children to abstain from sex, they recognized the need for their children to have information about birth control.

In addition to teaching about the risks of abortions on future pregnancies, North Carolina is also advancing a bill that would require teenagers to get notarized parental consent before accessing health services like sexually transmitted disease tests, birth-control prescriptions, mental health counseling, and substance abuse treatment.

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