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Sex Education Programs Strengthen Consent and Review Processes

Honolulu and Kahuku, HI

A group of parents were infuriated by two sex education presentations given at Kahuku High School in Kahuku and Kalani High School in Honolulu. While school officials and presenters defend the necessity of the assemblies, they plan to reinforce parental notification requirements and the screening of presentations.

The Kahuku High School controversy was sparked by a play entitled It Can Happen to You, attended by 600 of the school’s 1,750 students, which explained and demonstrated safer sex practices. One parent claims a female student who tried to leave was detained, and that his son was too uncomfortable with the program to tell his parents about its content.1   A teacher thought the play itself was “shocking” and “inappropriate” for the younger students but found the information within it on abstinence, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases important.2

The Kahuku principal issued a verbal and written apology for the presentation, sponsored by the Kalini-Palama Health Center, and promised to strengthen evaluation and notification policies.3 She said the Health Center provided the opt-out letters to parents but she did not double check them. While schools had previously reported no problems with the program, which has been running for five years in both Hawaii and California, the Kahuku principal admitted she had “failed to properly scrutinize the assembly prior to having it presented.”4

The executive director of the Health Center noted that the program allows districts the option of eliminating the condom demonstration to fit community sensitivities. He adds that the Health Center will ensure complete future disclosure to all school officials, saying they “failed to really disclose the content of the play effectively enough to give the school officials the information they needed to make an appropriate decision.”5

Three months later at Kalani High School, a class program on safer sex practices, contraception, HIV/AIDS, and transgender issues elicited similar objections from one parent. He labeled it “disrespectful and inappropriate,” citing the discussions of manual sexual activity, condom demonstrations, and safer sex with HIV-positive individuals.6

The in-class presentation was organized by an HIV-prevention organization along with a transgender equality group. One team leader said, “As a prevention educator I feel obligated to talk about different ways to keep your self safe.” She went on to say that she agreed with the father that parents should be their children’s sexual health educators, but that not all students “get sex education at home, [so] whenever we have an opportunity to talk about reducing the risk, we try to do that.”7

The Kalani principal said the father’s complaint is only the second he has received in the nearly decade-long run of the program.  The principal and class instructor are responsible for reviewing school programming for content and appropriateness and have defended the program.8

References

  1.   Eloise Aguiar, “Sex education play upsets Kahuku parents, students,” Honolulu Advertiser, 22 March 2008, accessed 16 April 2008, <http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article? AID=/20080322/NEWS01/803220337/1001/NEWS01>
  2.   Ibid.
  3.   Ibid.
  4.   Ibid.
  5.   Eloise Aguiar, “Group: Message of sex-ed play vital,” Honolulu Advertiser, 30 March 2008, accessed 2 April 2008, <www.honoluluadvertiser.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article? AID=/20080330/NEWS01/803300358/1190/LOCALNEWSFRONT>.
  6.   Eloise Aguiar, “Kalani sex education program blasted, “Honolulu Advertiser, 25 March 2008, accessed 16 April 2008, <www.honoluluadvertiser.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article? AID=/20080325/NEWS01/803250369/1001/NEWS01>.
  7.   Ibid.
  8.   Aguiar, “Kalani sex education program blasted,”; Olena Rubin, “Parent Objects to Sex Education Presentation,” KHON2.com, 25 March 2008, accessed 28 March 2008, <www.khon2.com/news/education/17005446.html>. 

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