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DOE Convenes Panel to Review Pilot Sex-Ed Program

February 21, 2014, 4:26 PM HST (Updated February 21, 2014, 4:29 PM)
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The state Department of Education has convened a working group to review an experimental sex-education program in public schools that has been criticized by Republican lawmakers.

The program entitled Pono Choices was developed by the University of Hawaii for seventh-graders.

Sen. Sam Slom, the only Republican in the state Senate, called a press conference in December to criticize the program, saying it was teaching students that homosexual lifestyles were appropriate.

Also taking part in the press conference was GOP Rep. Bob McDermott, who claimed the DOE refused to provide him with the program’s curriculum.

The DOE maintained that he could see the materials but requested that the lawmakers first take part in an orientation session.

The DOE said today that it has received written testimony from more than 100 people and groups concerned about the pilot program.

“As a result, the DOE convened a working group comprised of diverse stakeholders to review Pono Choices and make a recommendation on whether it meets statutory requirements and applicable BOE policies regarding sexual health education curriculum,” the department said in a statement.

The group will be chaired by DOE Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe.

Its members include Darrin Araki, executive director, Hawaii Pastors Roundtable; Dr. Robert Bidwell, associate clinical professor of pediatrics and director of adolescent medicine, John A. Burns School of Medicine; Karen Ginoza, representative of He`e Coalition and Faith Action for Community Equity; Kimberly Kepner-Sybounmy, parent representative; Noella Kong, state adolescent health coordinator, Hawaii Department of Health; Justin Mew, principal of Kaiser High School, former principal of Niu Valley Middle School and a former science teacher; Donna Rodenhurst, health teacher, King Intermediate School; and Kumu Hina Wong-Kalu, director of culture, Halau Lokahi Public Charter School.

The working group held its first meeting Thursday and is scheduled to meet again Feb. 27.

Public input is welcome via email at hipublicschools@gmail.com.

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