Lawmaker says advocacy group pays teachers to attend tolerance training


A PLACE IN SCHOOLS? A Hawaii lawmaker argues a new teacher training program shouldn’t be allowed in public schools.

By Malia Zimmerman |

HONOLULU — State Rep. Bob McDermott filed an ethics complaint against Hawaii State Department of Education District Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi Thursday after she ignored his Feb. 28 letter requesting she halt the implementation of a new teacher training program.

The program, Teaching Tolerance, was created by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama for K-12 English and history teachers nationwide.

The Southern Poverty Law Center will pay teachers $250 to attend the training, McDermott said, which “raises all sorts of ethical issues.”

BRIBES? Rep. Bob McDermott said teachers are being paid to promote liberal agenda

“Are Hawaii teachers being bribed to promote a specific point of view in these materials to their students?” McDermott asked.

In his letter to Matayoshi, McDermott requested she show him the citation in the law that allows such activities, because he said, “there is none.”

DOE spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz issued a statement Friday in response to’s inquiry, saying only “The Department of Education will review the complaint by Representative McDermott.”

Matayoshi allowed the seminar to be conducted by the SPLC this past weekend, leading the Republican lawmaker to file the ethics complaint.

“I want political agendas, right or left, out of the schools,” McDermott said. “I want the teachers to spend the precious little time they have with students educating them in the basics. English teacher should focus on English, things like sentence structure, and not some mainlander’s political viewpoint of social justice. Make no mistake, this program only presents one side of the story.”

The “agenda” of the program concerns McDermott, because he said there’s obvious “social engineering,” including a “disproportionate focus on normalizing homosexuality,” while also trying to discredit Christian beliefs.

“The theme of this curriculum is so called ‘anti-bias’ unless, of course, you are a person of faith. One example is the following: ‘Patrick is being raised in a very strict and exclusionary fundamentalist Christian home…’. If that is not biased I do not know what is,” McDemott said.

The SPLC didn’t respond Friday to a request for comment.

However, the organization says on its website it is “dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society” by using litigation, education and other forms of advocacy.

UNDER FIRE: Lawmaker asks Hawaii DOE Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi to stop promoting liberal agenda in schools

UNDER FIRE: Lawmaker asks Hawaii DOE Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi to stop promoting liberal agenda in schools

The organization said its mission includes “providing educators with free resources that teach school children to reject hate, embrace diversity and respect differences.”

McDermott said the group’s program is biased and has no place in the school system.

“The Southern Poverty Law Center targets Christian and pro-family groups such as Focus on the Family and Catholic Family News as hate groups, bigots and homophobes because they do not agree with same-sex marriage, or other aberrant behaviors,” McDermott said.

McDermott is the same legislator challenging the Department of Education’s implementation of Pono Choices, a controversial sex-education program for children 11 to 13 in public middle schools. The program is under review by an appointed Board of Education working group.

McDermott’s staff reviewed the Teaching Tolerance materials and said “while race, gender and physical disabilities are discussed, almost 25 percent of the example scenarios deal with gay acceptance. Why is the gay population, which is no more than 4 percent of the general population, consistently disproportionately represented in these new teaching materials?”

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