Parents’ efforts lead Hawaii educators to tone down sex-ed program

By Malia Zimmerman |

WIN: Rep. Bob McDermott doesn’t want children exposed to the “Pono Choices” curriculum.

HONOLULU — State Rep. Bob McDermott and parents of children in Hawaii’s middle schools were successful in persuading the Department of Education to revise the most contentious portions of a controversial sex-education curriculum.

Developed by the University of Hawaii Center on Disability Studies, the curriculum taught children as young as 11 about anal and homosexual sex.

The new curriculum rankled parents and some lawmakers, who said the program also is not only inappropriate but inaccurate, as well.

McDermott, who has an 11-year-old son in public school, released his own extensive report on the curriculum inaccuracies and successfully led the charge to pressure the state Board of Education to twice place it under review.

McDermott, a Republican, said the task force’s 11 new recommendations — released June 6 in a report called “Implementing Sexual Health Education: Background and Actions for Improvement” — are a victory for parents.

“Finally, biology has trumped social philosophy,” McDermott said.

The new curriculum acknowledges an elevated risk of disease from anal sex.

“You can’t deliberately replace actual disease statistics and real facts about safe sex with political correctness,” McDermott said. “Ironically, in their desire to ‘normalize’ homosexual lifestyles, they put those very students at risk by withholding these critical facts.”

The single biggest concession to parents is that all sex education curriculum in public schools be optional, McDermott said.

“Making the program a parental opt-in will increase transparency of materials and processes surrounding sensitive curriculum. The DOE acknowledged that the parental disclosure process was flawed and incomplete, and that by allowing an opt-out as the only option that the decks were stacked against informed decisions by parents,” McDermott said.

DOE Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said the overall goal of the curriculum and sexual health education standards, board policies and state laws is reducing unintended teen pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

“Given the statistics about Hawaii’s youth — the rate of sexual activity, failure to use protection, rate of pregnancy, and the spread of disease — we must work together to ensure students are educated to make better choices,” Matayoshi said.

Reach Malia Zimmerman at

Rob Port is the editor of, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.