Noted anti-LGBT Hawaiian State Representative Bob McDermott has been speaking up against the state's middle school sex education curriculum, and it was announced last week that his attempts to change the program have succeeded. McDermott has been strongly opposed to Pono Choices, the federally funded sex education curriculum that was developed at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and implemented in Hawaii middle schools.
Pono Choices was suspended for ten days last December after McDermott voiced some initial complaints about the curriculum's inclusivity of same-sex relationships. His complaints about the program came after his urging for the court to reconsider their decision to allow same-sex marriages.
When the state's Department of Education lifted its suspension on Pono Choices, McDermott released a report in January attacking the curriculum. Referring to the curriculum's inclusion of same-sex relationships, McDermott wrote that the program was "overemphasizing alternative lifestyles," "normalizing anal sex and homosexual behavior" and that students "might be under the impression that homosexuality and lesbianism are quite common." Furthermore, McDermott criticized the program for equating same-sex sexual behavior to male-female intercourse in its discussion of STI transmission.
Now, the Hawaii State Department of Education has succummed to McDermott's pressure and has made changes to the curriculum. The biggest change is that parents must now explicitly opt-in their children to participate in the sex education curriculum and be provided with the material to review before the lessons. Additionally, among other small alterations, there are changes to the vocabulary used in the curriculum.
These changes come with a cost to Hawaii's students. Hawaii's teen pregnancy rate of 93 pregnancies per 1,000 girls ages 15-19 is higher than the national average of 84, only 54 percent of high school students reported using a condom at last intercourse (the lowest rate of condom use in the country), and young people ages 15 to 24 experience more than half of the state's chlamydia and gonorrhea cases. Lawmakers should be promoting widespread access to sex education rather than cutting down on important curricular materials due to homophobia.