Back in the good old days, the only problem with sex in schools was that the provocative clothing of the girls could lure too many boys to pursue it.
Through the years, that has meant constant revisions of dress codes to keep ahead of clothing trends designed by a fashion industry that knows sex sells.
For teens, sex can also get you locked up.
As a result, the public school system, one step removed from measuring skirt lengths, is now charged with warning teens to keep those skirts from being inappropriately lifted.
There apparently is no problem too big that we can't throw another public school at it. Sex isn't the latest societal issue shoved into the school house; it's just the most recent one about which a disagreement has arisen. And this one isn't about skirt length.
Interestingly enough, the disagreement pits District Attorney Danny Craig against Juvenile Court Judge Doug Flanagan.
Actually, these two men don't, as far as I know, disagree on the topic. But their juxtaposition on the issue of teen sex is worth noting:
Craig, who often deals uncomfortably with the consequences of tough laws that can criminalize what only a few years ago was considered normal teen sexual behavior, has made several appearances before parents and students to explain the serious legal issues involved.
Flanagan, who also deals with criminalized teen sexual behavior - including his recent service as judge in the Reggie Rice/Shad Harris case - helped find a $15,000 state grant to pay for a comedian to visit the schools and provide an entertaining and educational discussion on sex.
The contrast in the two approaches rose to the surface when School Board member Regina Buccafusco objected to the comedian's sex-talk tour. "I think it's such an important subject that we should treat it seriously," she says.
She's seen a 15-minute clip of Keith Delatano's sex-and-comedy talk and calls it "crass." I haven't seen it. But as the mother of two grown sons, Buccafusco probably has pretty good instincts.
I haven't heard Craig's presentations to schools, either, but I've discussed the issue with him, and with Flanagan. And our reporters have dutifully covered and shared Craig's message to teens and their parents.
Just based on that information, I'm leery of any attempt to make light of the serious consequences of teen sexual activity. Outside the usual concerns - diseases and unintended pregnancies - teens are growing up in an era in which they can go to prison for having sex.
Because of changes in the law made only within the past decade, the consequences of teen sex are frightening. Flanagan recently sentenced Rice and Harris to probation as juveniles. But before the case was taken from Craig and superior court, Rice faced a mandatory 10-year minimum prison sentence for consensual sexual activity with another teen.
Though Rice was laughing and smiling after getting the much-lighter juvenile court sentence from Flanagan, chances are there was little to be happy about a few weeks earlier as he sat in jail awaiting bond.
So, which is the right sex-ed approach: Flanagan's comedy route, or Craig's version of Scared Straight?
Here's a thought. Rice's sentence also includes community service, which around here usually means putting the teens in orange vests and making them pick up roadside trash.
Instead, why not make him wear his orange Columbia County Sheriff's Office inmate coveralls, and talk to teens about how sex can lead to that particular fashion faux pas?
It may not be as funny as Keith Deltano's message. But I bet Rice's fashion-conscious fellow teens will pay attention.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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