HONOLULU (AP) - A Republican lawmaker in Hawaii has taken issue with one of the state's sex education programs, saying it "sexualizes the innocent" by teaching 11-year-old children about anal sex.
Rep. Bob McDermott also criticized the Department of Education on Monday for being secretive about the "Pono Choices" curriculum, one of several sex education programs available in public schools.
"Don't tell kids that anal sex with a condom is safe. It's not," McDermott said. "Why are you talking about anal sex with 11-year-olds?"
But the Department of Education responded to McDermott's concerns by creating a volunteer working group of parents, educators, religious leaders and health professionals to evaluate the curriculum's appropriateness, said Donalyn Dela Cruz, spokeswoman for the Department of Education. They're taking a look at its age-appropriateness and medical accuracy, she said.
"Overall we're doing what's right, and there's no hiding there," Dela Cruz said. "There are no secrets about what we're doing."
The working group has been meeting privately so it can focus on improving the curriculum, without the distractions of other political agendas such as the debate over same-sex marriage, Dela Cruz said. Many of the critics of the Pono Choices program have never even looked at the curriculum, she added.
"We don't want to make this a circus," Dela Cruz said. "We're really asking the public who volunteered to do this to take a real look at what the concerns are, versus the continuation of statements and misunderstanding."
The Pono Choices curriculum was designed to teach teenagers about abstinence and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, Dela Cruz said. It was developed in conjunction with the University of Hawaii, which states on its website that the program covers anal sex because that is one way that sexually transmitted diseases are transmitted.
But McDermott has a problem with that, and he questions why the program doesn't explain the "miracle of childbirth." He said the program treats sexual activity before the age of 14 as a viable choice, and claimed the curriculum is medically inaccurate.
"They define the anus as genitalia, for starters," McDermott said.
The working group has met several times since McDermott initially raised his concerns in November, Dela Cruz said. It will release a report in April. Meanwhile, the Pono Choices program has continued in some schools, Dela Cruz said.