Center on Disability Studies releases statement on Pono Choices

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Kelly Roberts, (808) 956-2303
College of Education
Posted: Jun 10, 2014

Pono Choices artwork
Pono Choices artwork

The importance of teen sexual health as an educational topic has been given a public forum that is needed now more than ever. With the release of the DOE Final Report of the Stakeholder Panel Review, the UH Mānoa College of Education Center on Disability Studies, the developers of Pono Choices, is appreciative of the time and effort of the DOE-convened panel.

The reports issued by the DOE confirm the need for and importance of sexual health education from a preventive stance at the middle school level. Furthermore, the report clarifies often misperceived or misunderstood sexual health terminologies as important concepts required to teach prevention skills. The need for a comprehensive middle school sexual health program is great with Hawaiʻi having the 10th highest rate of teen pregnancy, costing taxpayers $31 million annually, and extremely low rates of condom use, with high rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Clearly, young people need to be knowledgeable of what puts them at risk so they can make informed choices, including the fact that abstinence is the only 100% effective way to not get pregnant or contract an STI.

As stated in the report, the panel's charge was to review Pono Choices using the following guiding questions. Is it medically accurate/factual? Is it age-appropriate? Is it necessary to support comprehensive abstinence-based sexual health education? Is it unnecessarily graphic?

From the beginning stages of Pono Choices, the developers worked with the DOE, ensuring that the content aligned with both Board of Education policies and state laws, while also adhering to the rigorous standards of curriculum development. We consistently sought feedback throughout the development, and we look forward to reviewing these most recent recommendations. We will make necessary adjustments that continue to align with the most up-to-date research and practices regarding medical accuracy and age appropriateness to ensure the use of Pono Choices for the upcoming school year.

A unique aspect of Pono Choices is that it is locally developed and uses a Hawaiian cultural foundation to inform students about pregnancy and STI prevention. It teaches youth that it is about the choices you make that can put you at risk for unintended pregnancy and STIs. Knowledge, attitudes and skills, pertinent to prevention, are supported with cultural referents. There are no other locally developed, place-based middle school sexual health curricula currently on the DOE-approved list. The curriculum adheres to middle school core health education standards. With this in mind, we look forward to continuing to help educate our youth so they can make informed choices that align with their goals.