McDermott Slams “Secrecy” of the Pono Choices Working Group

Rep. Bob McDermott doesn’t want his children, who attend public school, exposed to the "Pono choices" program
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Rep. Bob McDermott doesn’t want his children, who attend public school, exposed to the “pono choices” program

REPORT FROM THE OFFICE OF REP. MCDERMOTT – State Representative Bob McDermott has expressed grave concerns about the Hawaii Department of Education’s Pono Choices’ working group and how serious its members are about responding to the community regarding the controversial sex education program.  The public has expressed valid concerns about the medical accuracy and age-appropriateness of Pono Choices and deserves a fair and unbiased re-assessment of the curriculum.

On February 19th, McDermott sent a letter to DOE Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, signed by eighteen members of the House of Representatives. The letter read in part: “This is a bi-partisan call for transparency in the Pono Choice review process on behalf of our constituents, the taxpayers of Hawaii.”


Since his call for transparency, McDermott says the secrecy has gotten worse. There have even been accounts of the working group members being asked to sign non-disclosure agreements.

McDermott also noted his 19-page “McDermott Report”, presented at a major public briefing at the Capitol, which cited numerous medical inaccuracies in Pono Choices.  He added: “I spoke with several physicians and was very specific about my findings.  Not one person—not a single soul—has challenged a single finding of fact in my report. But, the D.O.E. committee has chosen to address my concerns in total secrecy as if these are national security issues.”

While McDermott is pleased the DOE pulled the program back for further review, he notes that the process has been a clandestine effort at best, and has already taken too long.  He is afraid that “the deck has been stacked again, and we will simply have another back room ‘rubber stamping’ process.”
“It seems the DOE and the Board of Education have forgotten who owns the educational system—the communities and parents!” said McDermott.  “We all work for the parents and the taxpayers.  Therefore, let them see our work, let them participate, and then draw their own conclusions as to whether we’re doing our jobs.”

McDermott called on the Superintendent to scrap the panel and start over by installing a new working group with four doctors—one gynecologist, one pediatrician, one epidemiologist, and one proctologist.  McDermott says that individuals known to espouse biased political agendas should be avoided. He also recommended that at least nine parents be added into the mix, since it is the parents’ school system and their children are being influenced.  Further, he called on the new working group to hold the discussions in public, with broadcasts on ‘Ōlelo, and with an open decision-making process in full view of the people of Hawaii.

McDermott also demanded a full, complete analysis addressing each of the concerns he outlined in his “McDermott Report”, in which he asserted that Pono Choices:

·       Is a top-down, federally-dictated program and not an organic, community-developed curriculum—in spite of the name “Pono Choices”.
·       Is medically inaccurate regarding basic human anatomy.
·       Normalizes anal sex, while failing to warn students of the extreme dangers of anal sex, even when condoms are used.
·       References multiple sex partners, while failing to inform students about the health benefits of monogamy.
·       Fails to warn students about the ineffectiveness of condoms against HIV,  HPV and herpes.
·       Fails to educate students on the stages of human reproduction.
·       Fails to fully inform parents about the controversial aspects of the curriculum.
·       Is contrary to state law and policies regarding abstinence-based sexual education.
·       Is not age-appropriate for its intended students.
·       Treats sexual activity before the age of fourteen as a viable “choice”, in spite of state sexual assault law.
·       Suffers from an ideological bias that naturally results from the involvement of the sources responsible for developing the program.

One example that McDermott notes is the Pono Choices claim that anal sex with a condom is a “low risk” activity.  The Federal government, however, states exactly the opposite.  The Food and Drug Administration website warns of the dangers of anal sex.  The relevant FDA webpage, last updated in 2010, maintains a quote from former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who stated, “Condoms provide some protection, but anal intercourse is simply too dangerous to practice.”  Further, Dr. Judith Reisman, former principal investigator for the U.S. Department of Justice, notes: “The reality is that everyday condoms are manufactured and approved for natural, vaginal sex, not anal ‘sex’—they are not effectively designed to protect from disease those people who engage in [anal sex].”  McDermott questioned how a working group that meets in secret can properly address these concerns.

To make matters worse, Pono Choices boldly redefines the anus as genitalia.  McDermott called such a definition “ludicrous” and “medical malpractice by any standard”, given the fact that Dorland’s Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers defines a “genital” as “pertaining to reproduction, or to the reproductive organs”.

Among the crucial information omitted from this program—a program that defenders claim is designed to keep children “safe”—is the actual danger of HIV transmission via anal sex.  Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that male-to-male anal sex accounts for well over 50% of all new HIV cases in the United States, even though homosexuals comprise no more than 3% to 4% of the United States population.  This wantonly disproportionate risk is not even mentioned in Pono Choices.

To McDermott, it is clear that the real purpose of Pono Choices, developed in part by Planned Parenthood, is to normalize and mainstream an alarming variety of behaviors that are in fact statistical anomalies while purposefully misrepresenting or completely omitting the associated dangers of such behaviors.
“The bottom line is that parents should remain in charge of raising their children, and helping shape their values,” said McDermott. “This is not the role of government or our school system to do in isolation or in secret.  I am usually an optimist, but the makeup of the committee is quite troubling, and this then becomes exponentially amplified with the secretive review process.  I expect a complete whitewash, I’m sad to say.”