The state Department of Education is implementing some major changes — and requesting others — to the controversial middle-school sex-ed program known as Pono Choices in response to a report released Friday.

Among the immediate changes: Parents will have to opt their children into the program, instead of out of it.

The report includes 11 detailed recommendations that the DOE hopes will improve the sex-ed course and make it more palatable for parents concerned about its contents.

The DOE report summarizes the findings, contained in a separate report, of a nine-member working group that the department convened in February and that was charged with reviewing the curriculum and coming up with suggestions on how to change it. 

Hawaii State Rep. Bob McDermott discusses the Pono Choices sex education program at a news conference in January.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Some of the changes are at the discretion of the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Center on Disability Studies, which developed and owns the Pono Choices materials. The report requests that the university make certain changes to the contents, including that it increase information about the risks of anal sex and clarify that the anus isn’t a genital.

The DOE is making some changes immediately. One of most significant is that the department will now require parents to proactively opt their children into the program; before, children at schools where Pono Choices was taught automatically participated in the program unless their parents opted them out. The department also plans on giving parents more discretion over what their kids learn and ensuring that they have full access to the sex-ed materials.

“There is no avoiding the fact that sexual health education is a sensitive and divisive issue,”

Loading Major Changes Are Slated for Pono Choices Sex-Ed Program

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