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Creators of pilot sex-education program defend program

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Nov 14 2013 06:06:00 PM HST

A sex education program being tested in some middle schools struck a nerve during the heated debate over same-sex marriage.

HONOLULU -

On the surface, Pono Choices sounds like good common sense.

The locally developed sex education curriculum helps students prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

But lawmakers started to call attention to what was being taught at some middle schools after parents complained.

But was it taken out of context, or do the complaints have merit?

Click here to watch Catherine Cruz's report.

"I have 13 grandchildren and they have no right to introduce that in the schools especially at that grade level they are talking about," said retired teacher Kathy Kamau'u. 

Kamauu said she read the worksheets and felt that the material was not age-appropiate.

The University Hawaii team that helped create the program with Planned Parenthood and Alu Like wanted to convey that it is not about the people, it's about the behavior.

"We want to work hard to make parents understand that is not for everybody. We want them to decide if this is right, if it is right for them, and have the choice to do that," said Tammy Tom with the Center for Disability Studies.

Tom said the example of two boys kissing was meant to explain the difference between a healthy, unhealthy or abusive relationship.

So we asked why couldn't more gender neutral language -- like student "A" and student "B" -- be used instead of "Bill" and "James."

"It's very possible, it could convey the same message, and we will certainly think about that," said Tom.

Tom added the program advocates abstinence, but admits it's tough to talk about abstinence without some frank talk about different types of sex.

She says a program priority is to be "medically accurate."

So as far as preventing infections:

"They can basically be spread between two human beings, regardless of gender," said Tom.

The pilot project involved 30 public schools -- half of which used the program.

The test ended last year, but Tom said some schools, like Niu Valley Intermediate, asked to continue using it.

Tom said Pono Choices could roll out to all middle school students next year.

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