Hawaii parents scored a big win over a middle school sexual education program that was filled with medical inaccuracies and graphic material that placed a higher premium on promoting homosexuality than delivering health education.
Opponents are preparing a rebuttal report urging the Hawaii Department of Education to send the program Pono Choices back to the University of Hawaii for further review after the department announced Saturday that the curriculum would only be taught to students whose parents explicitly opted in.
“A huge victory in the battle for morality,” State Representative Bob McDermott (R., Ewa Beach) said. “We beat them with science and facts.”
McDermott believes many national sexual education programs are efforts to promote a homosexual lifestyle, and he highlights medical facts that programs like Pono Choices get wrong. He took particular issue with the inclusion of the anus under the list of genitalia (the anus is part of the digestive tract) and the lack of meaningful distinction between anal intercourse and vaginal intercourse.
Tuesday results from a Honolulu Star-Advertiser poll indicated that 60 percent of respondents want to eradicate the program entirely, with only 16 percent wanting to keep it as is. A major revision sought by opponents is the disclosure of elevated risk from anal intercourse and other sexual activities, McDermott said.
The continued efforts since November 2013 of McDermott and others in the community, including a large base of parents, caused the Aloha State’s education department to add the opt-in feature.
Pono opponents seek more revisions of its depictions of sexual intercourse and anatomy that McDermott says violate a state statute requiring sexual education programs to be medically accurate and age-appropriate. (The program is intended for eleven- to 13-year-olds.)
McDermott contends that the program tries to normalize homosexual activity without being forthcoming about the risks, downplaying them even while detailing the risks of heterosexual sex.
For instance, scenarios designed for role-playing responses to various encounters only used heterosexual scenarios when addressing harmful situations, such as abuse. The program did not include homosexual scenarios when addressing harmful sexual situations. McDermott claims a committee member told him the program’s framers did not want to put gays “in a negative light.”
The program was reviewed once in November by an eight-person working group in response to complaints that it was placing politically correct messaging above sound science. The group was meant to be representative, including among others one conservative-leaning director of a faith-based group and one transgender, but the only doctor on the committee was Robert Bidwell, an openly gay physician with an adopted son. He signed off on the report that the curriculum was medically accurate.
All except two group members were connected to the Hawaii Department of Education. The program was re-instituted in November.
Previously children would have been enrolled by default unless parents opted out. But McDermott noted that parents may have lacked the information that would have prompted them to make this decision.
In his report entitled “Sexualizing the Innocent,” McDermott describes a Parent Night meant to inform parents about Pono Choices before the program was initially implemented in twelve Hawaiian public schools in September 2013. This meeting informed parents about the demonstration of condom use and other matters involved in Pono Choices but failed to disclose the materials on homosexual behavior.
Nevertheless, in an affluent neighborhood, one-third of families did opt out at Niu Valley Middle School, according to a Hawaii Department of Education report on the program’s implementation. Fewer families opted out in less-affluent neighborhoods.
– Celina Durgin a Franklin Center intern at National Review.