a bird and a bottle

Your Tax Dollars At Work (if you live in Ct)
February 14, 2007, 7:55 am
Filed under: criminal justice, feminism/s & gender, frivolity, law, news, reproductive justice

Consider this my Valentine.

Update: the NY Times is thinking about sex ed today too — but for a different demographic. Check out their article, “The Greatest Generation Learns Great Safe Sex.” Seems like we could all use a little real sex ed.

So apparently there is a law on the books in Connecticut (and other states, I trust) that makes it a crime to show pornography to kids/students. Makes sense, I suppose, to have a law like this to provide another arrow in prosecutors’ quivers when it comes to taking down people who sexually abuse children and use porn in the process.

What doesn’t make sense is an overzealous prosecutor deploying this odd law against a teacher on whose classroom computer porn popped up, likely because the school was behind in paying its vendors bills and the old computer’s spyware was not up to date.

Here’s what happened, according to the Associated Press:

It all began in October 2004. Amero [a substitute teacher] was assigned to a class at Kelly Middle School in Norwich, a city of around 37,000 people about 40 miles east of Hartford.

Amero says that before her class started, a teacher allowed her to e-mail her husband. She says she used the computer and went to the bathroom, returning to find the permanent teacher gone and two students viewing a Web site on hair styles.

Amero says she chased the students away and started class. But later, she says, pornographic images started popping up on the computer screen by themselves. She says she tried to click the images off, but they kept returning, and she was under strict orders not to shut the computer off.

“I did everything I possibly could to keep them from seeing anything,” she says.

Prosecutor David Smith contended at Amero’s three-day trial that she actually clicked on graphic Web sites.

You might be wondering how much time Ms. Amero faces: up to 40 years. I kid you not. Thankfully (sarcasm) the prosecutor will likely on seek 1 year to 18 months.

What gets me about all this is that it exposes (1) the dangers of prosecutorial discretion and (2) how puritanical our society is/has become. And how much that puritanism restricts what children learn. I’m not saying that we should support the screening of pornography in classrooms (which is at least arguably anti-woman and, as far as I know, not usually a true depiction of human sexuality) in middle school classrooms. What I *am* saying is that sex and the bodies involved in that sex have been made taboo. Not only do our schools SIECUS (pdf).

We should leave the Puritans (and their descendants — today’s religious right) behind and take a page from the Unitarian church, whose sexuality education program (which is called “Our Whole Lives” or OWL) not only teaches that sexuality is natural and good in all its forms (in marriage, outside of marriage, gay, straight, or in between), but even has a VIDEO of said sex for high schoolers. That’s right kids. A video. Of real sex. With real bodies. In real classrooms (or more likely, church basements).

So there’s the contrast: substitute teacher (most likely) accidentally allows kids to see porn when her computer’s spyware fails causing community uproar (oh no! my kid saw a boob!?) and leads prosecutor to charge her with crimes carrying a sentence of up to 40 years in jail versus Unitarian teacher tells kids about real sex and helps demystify it and teach kids how to have sex safely. What kind of community would you rather live in?

(hat tip: d)


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