HONOLULU – A federally funded sex education program being piloted in 12 Hawaiian schools is drawing heavy criticism from parents and lawmakers who see it as an attempt to present homosexual behavior as “mainstream” and wholesome to students as young as 11 years old.

staring girls cropCritics say the activists behind the new curriculum are so zealous in their mission to promote homosexuality to middle school students that they present “medically inaccurate” information to further their cause, while withholding vital risk information about dangerous sexual practices.

The controversial program goes by the Hawaiian name “Pono Choices,” which could be translated as “good choices” or “moral choices.”

But Republican state Rep. Bob McDermott, who’s leading the fight against the curriculum, sees little “good” in the new program that’s targeted for 11- to 13-year-olds. Instead, the lawmaker says Pono Choices fails Hawaii’s children because “it’s not age appropriate and not consistent with state policy.”

McDermott’s most powerful criticism, however, is that the health program is not medically accurate. The most glaring example of this is the curriculum’s re-definition of the anus as a “genital.”

“Genitals are sexual reproductive organs – and the ass isn’t that,” McDermott tells EAGnews.

This matters because classifying the anus as a “genital” affects the curriculum’s discussion of oral sex (“mouth on genitalia”) and makes it take on troubling new dimensions. The practice of oral-anal sex –known as “rimming” – is very dangerous because it can lead to the ingestion of fecal matter, which can result in a variety of infections and even intestinal parasites.

Despite those obvious health risks, the authors of “Pono Choices” omit any warnings about the dangers of oral-anal sex from the curriculum, according to McDermott. He finds that very strange, considering that schools are purportedly using the program as a way of combating the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

“It’s either gross negligence or a purposeful omission,” McDermott says.

He believes it’s the latter – a decision he reached after reading each of the curriculum’s 324 pages and working with his staff to complete an extensive review of the program. McDermott’s review is significant because the Hawaii State Department of Education is refusing to make the Pono Choices curriculum available for public review.

A case of social engineering

During their review of Pono Choices, McDermott and staff researchers cataloged the many different instances in which the 60-hour sex ed program simply fails to alert children to the dangers of the behaviors being presented to them.

The lawmaker says that’s obvious in how the program downplays or ignores the health risks of homosexual behavior – especially the perils of male-on-male anal sex.

McDermott explains in his report, “The Pono Choices Curriculum: Sexualizing the Innocent”:

“In the module on ‘Preventing Sexually Transmitted Infections,’ students are instructed to estimate the relative risk of HIV transmission for numerous varied activities, from hugging to anal sex. Both vaginal sex with a condom and anal sex with a condom are rated as low risk activities. Unprotected vaginal sex is rated as high risk activity. The risk level of anal sex without a condom, however, is not addressed.”

That’s a serious omission, given that reputable studies have found unprotected anal sex carries a very high risk of HIV transmission.

Even Pono Choices’ classification of protected anal sex as a “low risk” activity is highly questionable, McDermott adds. He notes that the Federal Drug Administration’s website warns that even with condom usage, “anal intercourse is simply too dangerous to practice.”

Withholding that information from kids could have lethal consequences, McDermott says.

The authors of the federally funded sex education program – which include the University of Hawaii, Planned Parenthood, and Advocates for Youth – are so sloppy with the facts because the curriculum’s goal is to present homosexuality as normal and healthy to middle school children, he says.

The lawmaker supports that assertion by pointing out in his report that Pono Choices contains a “disproportionately high number of fictional scenarios featuring homosexual characters—in spite of the fact that homosexuals are a strikingly small part of the population.”

McDermott tells EAGnews 25 percent of the scenarios presented to students involve homosexual behavior – or sexual behavior between “gender ambiguous” characters (i.e. “KC and Jo,” “Jordan and Sam”). He says the intention is to leave students with the impression that homosexuality and homosexual behavior is quite common.

Program runs afoul of state’s sexual assault law

While McDermott is troubled by Pono Choices’ pro-homosexuality agenda, that’s not his only concern.

The father of eight is equally upset with the program’s failure to warn students that condoms are not effective at stopping the spread of human papillomavirus and herpes, two sexually transmitted diseases that can’t be cured.

The program’s total silence on the benefits of monogamy also rankles McDermott.

But Pono Choices’ problems go far beyond the personal concerns of one man.

McDermott says the sex education program violates state law that requires schools to present students with a “medically accurate sexuality health education.” Pono Choices easily fails this test, as the “anus as genital” discussion demonstrates.

But the program also violates other state Board of Education policies, including one that directs schools to use an “abstinence-based” curriculum (not to be confused with “abstinence-only”) and that the material be “age appropriate.”

State law defines “age appropriate” as “suitable to a particular age or age group based on developing cognitive, emotional, and behavioral capacity typical for that age or age group.”

McDermott points to statistics that show anal sex among children ages 11 to 13 “is infinitesimally small.” Therefore, teaching the finer points of anal sex to that group of children is not “age appropriate.”

And then there’s the state policy that requires that teaching of condom usage to be done in conjunction with teaching about human reproduction. Pono Choices talks a lot about condoms, but according to McDermott’s report, it contains no mention of words most associated with reproduction: zygote, embryo, fetus or gestation.

But most importantly, the sex ed curriculum presents students with various sexual scenarios and behaviors that, if acted upon, could result in serious legal consequences for them or their partner. Hawaii law treats the sexual penetration of a minor under the age of 14 – regardless of consent – as sexual assault, which is a class A felony.

McDermott’s report states:

“… Based on the advice in the curriculum, children could easily conclude that it is ‘pono’ for an 11-year-old girl to receive sexual intercourse from a 13-year-old boy, so long as they both freely ‘choose’ to have sex and use a condom. We personally know, however, more than a few parents who would not hesitate to press charges against any such boy.”

“It would be ludicrous to tell underage children that they have a ‘choice’ regarding alcohol or tobacco use. In light of the sexual assault law, children should be warned that sexual activity before 14 is legally off-limits.”

Taking it to the streets

Since becoming aware of Pono Choices late last year, McDermott has worked overtime to get this information out to his fellow lawmakers and Hawaii’s voters. In early February, he presented his findings to the state Board of Education.

He’s also taking his message to parents and voters through a series of heavily attended community presentations. The lawmaker says parents have gone from being unaware of the program to being “outraged.”

McDermott acknowledges that parents with children in one of the 12 “pilot” schools can opt their children out of Pono Choices, but he says parents have been given virtually no information about the controversial aspects of the program.

From McDermott’s report:

“If parents knew what was in it, and how it was presented, they would not walk away—they would run away. This material should be pulled from the schools now. Continued use of this curriculum could put the school system in legal peril, as students may detrimentally rely on the information contained therein.”

While Pono Choices is designed as a uniquely Hawaiian program, McDermott believes other states are using a similar curriculum. He says the problem is that the federal government is offering states extra funding if they teach a “comprehensive sexual education” program that does not require any emphasis on abstinence.

That leaves education officials of cash-strapped states to choose between complying with state statutes and receiving extra federal funding.

McDermott knows his leadership on this issue means he will be attacked as “a homophobic-hater-bigot,” but he’s willing to endure those slings and arrows to protect children from dangerously misleading information.

“Tolerance of (alternative lifestyles) is one thing – inculcating kids is another.”

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