Hawaii’s state Department of Education announced on Saturday that its middle school sexual education program would only be taught to students whose parents explicitly opted-in.
The announcement was a victory for Hawaii State Representative Bob McDermott, who claimed that the program would “normalize” homosexuality. Rep. McDermott has long fought against sexual education programs like Pono Choices, which was developed by the University of Hawaii at Mānoa’s Center on Disability Studies using funding from the federal Office of Adolescent Health. (“Pono” is a Hawaiian word typically translated as “righteous.”)
“I am a little uncomfortable saying this, but this is what your children, your 11-year-old children, are being taught. To me, this is outrageous because it robs them of their innocence and it’s not appropriate,” McDermott said about the program late last year.
“I can assure you my 11-year-old girl knows nothing about anal sex, and one of the reasons is because she’s not exposed to Pono Choices.”
After he made that statement, the Department of Education temporarily suspended the program until it could determine the curriculum’s “appropriateness.” It found that “the cirriculum meets department standards” and “is a culturally responsive curriculum that has resulted in positive outcomes for students.”
Pono Choice was reinstated on an opt-out basis — meaning that parents who did not want their children to participate could contact the school and exempt them from the class. McDermott has successfully made the program opt-in — meaning that parents will have to sign permission slips allowing to their children to take the class.
As ThinkProgress reported, McDermott’s efforts to have sexual education programs scaled back coincide with a dramatic increase in teen pregnancy, caused in part because “54 percent of Hawaii’s high school students reported using condoms the last time they had intercourse,” the lowest in the nation.
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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