LIHUE — The Hawaii State Department of Education adopted a mandatory new sexual health policy on Tuesday.
The revised policy requires students to receive sex health education that is medically accurate and age-appropriate. Middle-school students will learn about contraception and methods of disease prevention to stop unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, according to the Hawaii DOE website.
“For the schools we want to make sure that we comply and that we are able to meet the requirements of the policy,” said Kauai District Superintendent Bill Arakaki.
While the new measure will replace the DOE’s former abstinence-based education policy, it will still emphasize abstinence from sexual intercourse as the most effective way to prevent pregnancy, the spread of STDs and emotional distress.
“We will be making sure that the principals of the middle schools understand what the policy requires,” said DOE Director of Communications Donalyn Dela Cruz.
Students may be excused from the sexual health classes with a written request made by the student’s parents or legal guardian. Students who decide not to take the class won’t be penalized by the school, the policy states.
The original policy, last updated in 1995, didn’t have a decline option for students or parents.
Dela Cruz said that it is up to each middle school’s principal to determine the grade in which sexual health will be taught.
The policy, set to be implemented in August, is also meant to help students with their communication skills to develop healthy, violence-, coercion- and intimidation-free relationships based on mutual respect.
State officials say the policy will help students with critical thinking, problem solving, decision making and stress management in addition to encouraging students to communicate with their parents and other trusted adults about sexual activity.
A copy of the curriculum used by the schools will be made available to parents and will be posted on the school’s website before instruction begins.
“It’ll help us as far as being able to provide sexual health education for our students,” Arakaki said.
According to the state’s DOE website, 10.4 percent of middle school students and 37 percent of high school students have reported having sex. The website also reported that 44 percent of Hawaii teens reported using condoms during their last intercourse, while 20 percent reported they used no method of pregnancy prevention.