A controversial sexual education program can again be taught in public school classrooms, the Department of Education announced Friday, two weeks after it halted the Pono Choices program for review.
The program, which was being taught on a trial basis in some schools, came under criticism from opponents of same-sex marriage, including some lawmakers and parents, who complained that middle-school students were being taught about same-sex relationships and oral and anal sex as part of the curriculum.
It was among seven DOE-approved programs for middle schools to use for sexual health education. It was developed by the University of Hawaii-Manoa Center on Disability Studies to help reduce teen pregnancies and prevent sexually transmitted infections.
"A review of Pono Choices confirmed the curriculum is medically accurate, appropriate and aligned with health education, state law and DOE policy," the department said in a news release Friday afternoon.
"Our review not only affirmed that the curriculum meets department standards, but it also showed that Pono Choices is a culturally responsive curriculum that has resulted in positive outcomes for students," Leila Hayashida, assistant superintendent for the Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Student Support, said in a statement. "In this case that means more youth abstaining from sex and less teen pregnancy and STI transmission."
The DOE said 12 schools are expected to teach Pono Choices next semester. Some of the schools have been using the curriculum for the past four semesters, while others will be using the curriculum for the first time.
Schools hold informational sessions with parents prior to using Pono Choices, and parents can opt their child out of any course or lesson that is considered controversial, the department said.