Legislator steamed over DOE sex ed program

Image Thursday, December 19, 2013      By Nanea Kalani

A state lawmaker suing the state for legalizing same-sex marriages says a controversial sex education program being taught in some public schools is inappropriate because it promotes a “homosexual lifestyle as a positive or ‘pono’ choice.”

Image
Rep. Bob McDermott (R, Ewa-Iroquois Point) said he heard from concerned parents during the state’s debate over marriage equality that middle school students were being taught about same-sex relationships and oral and anal sex as part of the curriculum for a pilot sex education program called Pono Choices.

It is one of seven programs approved by the Department of Education for middle schools to use for sexual health education. It was funded by the federal Office of Adolescent Health and developed by the University of Hawaii at Manoa Center on Disability Studies to help reduce teen pregnancies and prevent sexually transmitted infections.

McDermott said he asked the state Department of Education this week for copies of the curriculum, including teacher lesson plans, student workbooks and handouts, but was denied. He said the University of Hawaii also denied his request for materials.

“It’s outrageous that a state legislator … as an elected official and a father of public school children, cannot get this information,” he told reporters at the state Capitol Wednesday.

McDermott said he was invited to instead review the materials with supervision, which he declined.

Holding up an enlarged copy of a student’s worksheet provided by a parent, he said he’s troubled that students are being asked to define such terms as anal sex and oral sex.

“I am a little uncomfortable saying this, but this is what your children, your 11-year-old children, are being taught. To me, this is outrageous because it robs them of their innocence and it’s not appropriate,” McDermott said. “I can assure you my 11-year-old girl knows nothing about anal sex, and one of the reasons is because she’s not exposed to Pono Choices.”

DOE spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said the curriculum is sensitive in nature and can be misinterpreted.

“That’s why parents attend informational sessions prior to use and teachers are trained to teach the course,” she said. “We have offered the representative, and anyone else interested, an opportunity to meet with those who created the program at UH. He interpreted that as a refusal and that’s very unfortunate.”

Sen. Sam Slom said he also requested the materials after hearing from parents, constituents and teachers, but was denied.

“To treat us like children … I think it’s going to have far-reaching consequences,” Slom (R, Hawaii Kai-Diamond Head) said. For one, he said he plans to scrutinize UH’s budget request before the Legislature.

The DOE had halted the program at the end of November to review the content and address concerns. It was reinstated two weeks later, and 12 schools are expected to teach Pono Choices next semester.

Parents can choose to have their child opt out of a course or lesson deemed controversial, the DOE said.

 

http://www.staradvertiser.com/newspremium/20131219__Legislator_steamed_over_DOE_sex_ed_program.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hawaii Future Caucus – Press conference Nov. 27, 2013

Young Legislators Announce Establishment of Hawaii Future Caucus
Bipartisan group will work together to achieve post-partisan solutions

HONOLULU — A bipartisan group of state and county leaders age 40 and under will announce the establishment of the Hawaii Future Caucus. Members will work together to increase government openness and participation among young people through policy discussions between public, private and nonprofit sectors and advancing legislative packages within the state Legislature and County Councils.

Speakers are Republican and Democrat members of the Hawaii Future Caucus, led by Co-Chairs State Representative Beth Fukumoto, State Representative Takashi Ohno, and City Councilman Stanley Chang.

The Hawaii Future Caucus is working with the Millennial Action Project (MAP), a nonprofit working to move America beyond political gridlock with next generation leadership and innovative, future-focused policy dialogue. MAP recently worked with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) to form the Bipartisan Congressional Future Caucus with Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL).

Legislators also participating in the Hawaii Future Caucus include State Representatives Henry Aquino, Ty Cullen, Richard Fale, Linda Ichiyama, Kaniela Ing, Aaron Ling Johanson, Chris Lee, Lauren (Cheape) Matsumoto, Justin Woodson, and Councilmembers Ikaika Anderson, Greggor Ilagan and Dru Mamo Kanuha.

“Young people are frustrated by the partisanship they see within all levels of government, and as a result, they’re disengaging,” said Fukumoto. “But if the system is going to improve, these are the very people our government needs to involve.”

Hawaii future CaucusThe Caucus has identified two priorities that it considers barriers keeping young people from participating in government; government transparency and voter participation.

“Improved voter participation and transparency in government are not issues exclusive to any one political party,” said Ohno. “By addressing these obstacles, we make government accessible and appealing to an entire generation of young people and help them transition into roles of active citizenship.”

“At the end of the day, young people just want to see problems getting solved. If we can show that we can work together productively on issues that are important to everyone, it may help restore confidence and encourage engagement in government,” said Chang.

A 2013 Harvard study found that almost half of people (47%) age 18-29 agree that “politics today are no longer able to meet the challenges our country is facing,” and another third (36%) were apathetic to the question. Voter turnout among the same age group dropped from 51% to 45% between the last two national elections.

The Hawaii Future Caucus is working with the Millennial Action Project (MAP), a nonprofit working to move America beyond political gridlock with next generation leadership and innovative, future-focused policy dialogue. MAP recently worked with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) to form the Bipartisan Congressional Future Caucus with Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL).

“We are extremely proud of Representative Fukumoto, Representative Ohno, and Councilmember Chang for spearheading the Hawaii Future Caucus. Their fresh perspective, innovative ideas, and post-partisan approach is an excellent model of leadership,” said Steve Olikara, President and Co-Founder of the Millennial Action Project.

For more information about the Hawaii Future Caucus, please visit its Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/HawaiiFutureCaucus. For more about the Millennial Action Project, please visit http://millennialaction.org.

Contact: repfukumoto@capitol.hawaii.gov