HONOLULU – The Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) today released a report that announces actions it is taking based on a panel review of Pono Choices, a middle-school sexual health education curriculum. The report entitled, Implementing Sexual Health Education: Background and Actions for Improvement, details 11 specific recommendations to improve the curriculum and a dozen internal actions the DOE is taking to improve curriculum reviews and parental choice.
Pono Choices was developed and is owned by the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Center on Disability Studies (UHM-CDS), and was implemented in five schools this past semester. In response to feedback from various stakeholders, the Department convened the Pono Choices Stakeholder Review Panel, chaired by DOE Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe to review the curriculum and make recommendations. The Panel generated a report, Stakeholder Panel Review: Pono Choices Curriculum, February – May 2014: Final Report, which summarizes their discussions and lists specific recommendations.
The DOE is formally requesting that UHM-CDS consider addressing recommendations for changes to further improve the curriculum and address stakeholders’ concerns. Among the recommended changes: characterization of the anus as a genital, increasing information about the risks of anal sex, and improvements to the Parent Night Guide to provide more transparency to families about the curriculum to inform their decision making.
The DOE’s report also announces 12 additional internal actions it is taking to improve curriculum review processes and increase parental role in decisionmaking around sexual health education. They include changing the requirement from a parent opt-out decision to an opt-in; reviewing the design and sequence of health and life science courses; and defining a clear process for curriculum and instructional materials review and approval that reflects state law and Board policy regarding roles and responsibilities.
The Department also recommends that the Board of Education review, as part of its ongoing policy audit, policies 2210 and 2245 to provide clarity around the context for classroom discussions about prophylactic devices.
“Let’s not forget that the goal of this curriculum and our sexual health education standards, Board policies, and state laws, is to reduce unintended teen pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV,” noted Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “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.”
“There is no avoiding the fact that sexual health education is a sensitive and divisive issue,” stated Nozoe. “We took the concerns raised by members of the public seriously. Both the recommendations to UHM-CDS and changes to the department’s internal processes reflect that.”
About the Hawaii State Department of Education
The Hawaii State Department of Education is the ninth-largest U.S. school district and the only statewide educational system in the country. It is comprised of 255 schools and 33 charter schools, and serves more than 185,000 students. King Kamehameha III established Hawaii’s public school system in 1840. The DOE is in the midst of a range of historic efforts to transform its public education system to ensure graduates succeed in college or careers. View our milestones in transformation since 2010.