Pono Choices sex ed course concerns some parents

Pono Choices sex ed course concerns some parents
Published: Nov. 14, 2013 at 11:56 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2013 at 3:31 AM HST
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The UH Center on Disability Studies created Pono Choices, a teen pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infection prevention curriculum.

"It is aligned with the DOE standards and policies, and it really actually is encouraging abstinence as the guaranteed way of not getting pregnant or contracting an STI," said Center statistician Tammy Tom.

The sex ed health course has been taught to more than 1,700 middle schoolers in the DOE system. Kainoa Iranon feels some of the material is too graphic. His son is a seventh-grader at Niu Valley Middle School.

"He talked about how he had to write what the teacher was teaching about: your mouth on the genitals, oral sex, vaginal sex, anal sex," he said.

A parent who wanted to remain anonymous also voiced concern about that content.

"I didn't realize the extent of the graphic nature of some of the suggestions and material," she said.

Tom said the exercise teaches students the definition of sex to keep them safe.

"That definition of sex is important so that youth and people in general know how to protect themselves from a sexually transmitted infection," she said.

Another parent who didn't want to be identified questioned the course's use of visual aids.

"I felt uncomfortable with the demonstration of putting a condom on a dildo for students of both sexes to personally see and experience," she said.

A seventh-grader who is going through the Pono Choices classes at Niu Valley said he thinks the course teaches that sex is okay with anyone, just as long as it's safe sex.

"I feel that a bunch of what we've learned isn't more about prevention or safe sex, it's more about just sex instead," he said.

"Things like this to seventh-graders, twelve-year-old girls and boys? That's wrong to me," Iranon said.

Tom said she believes the content is age appropriate.

Iranon and other parents also complained that one exercise gives a negative view of two heterosexual couples and a positive view of a samesex couple.

Tom said that isn't the intent of the lesson.

"It's the behaviors that are either unhealthy, healthy or abusive in the relationship, any relationship," she said.

"Parents and legal guardians always have the ability to opt-out their children from such lessons so they may receive alternative instruction," said Leila Hayashida, assistant superintendent of the DOE's Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Student Services.

Tom said Pono Choices sends a letter home before the course begins, inviting parents to a meeting where the curriculum is discussed in detail.

"We really encourage parents to learn about the curriculum and decide if it is right for them," she said.

Iranon isn't against Pono Choices, just certain elements of the curriculum.

"Not all of it is bad. There is some good things in it. However, there are some things that should be taken out," he said.

The sex ed course is taught in 10 one-hour sessions. Some parents believe it's more about sexual education.

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