The Hawaii State Department of Education is lifting the hold on one of its sexual education curriculum. A review of Pono Choices confirmed the curriculum is medically accurate, appropriate and aligned with health education, state law and DOE policy.
Pono Choices was put on hold last month pending a review of curriculum concerns brought to the DOE's attention. Some parents complained about a reference to same-sex couples.
Pono Choices is a teen pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infection prevention program funded by the federal Office of Adolescent Health and developed by the University of Hawaii at Manoa Center on Disability Studies.
"Our review not only affirmed that the curriculum meets department standards, but it also showed that Pono Choices is a culturally responsive curriculum that has resulted in positive outcomes for students," stated Leila Hayashida, assistant superintendent for the Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Student Support. "In this case that means more youth abstaining from sex and less teen pregnancy and STI transmission."
Twelve DOE schools are slated to teach Pono Choices next semester. Some of these schools have been using the curriculum for the past four semesters, and other schools will be using the curriculum for the first time.
"All of the schools have teachers who have been trained to deliver the curriculum as it is intended to be delivered so that the learning that takes place is standard and consistent across schools," noted Hayashida.
During the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years, 12 DOE schools chose to implement the Pono Choices curriculum as a part of sexual health education. Each school held parent informational sessions prior to use. Eight other DOE schools are scheduled to receive training this school year.
"We greatly appreciate the careful and thoughtful review process that took place," said Pono Choices Principal Investigator Dr. Kelly Roberts. "We look forward to continuing our work with parents and teachers about educating our students on how to abstain from sex, how to refuse unwanted sexual pressures and how to prevent a pregnancy and a STI."
Parents in schools implementing the curriculum are invited to a Pono Choices Parent Night through a letter that is sent home with their child. The letter provides the date, time and location of the parent night presentation and informs the parent or guardian that their child will be studying teen pregnancy and STI prevention as part of health education and that the school will be using the Pono Choices curriculum. The letter also provides information about the curriculum and explains that it teaches students how to correctly use a condom to prevent pregnancy and STIs. The entire DOE abstinence-based policy is also provided in the letter.
Taught in middle schools, sexual health education focuses on short-and long-term effects and consequences of sexual activity, such as an unintended pregnancy or STIs. All DOE approved sex education curricula are in compliance with the Board of Education’s abstinence-based sex education Policy 2110. For any curriculum or lesson that addresses reproductive health, parents have the option of requesting that their child not receive the instruction.