Leave Sex Ed to DOE Control
Sex education can be a challenging issue for policy makers deciding what to teach, when to teach it and to whom. Parents and guardians want to have a say in the matter, too, along with the professional educators.
It's unclear, then, why the Legislature finds it necessary to introduce House Bill 399, which would mandate a more "comprehensive approach" to instruction on issues ranging from sexuality, contraception and relationships.
The measure attempts to fix some things that seemingly aren't broken and essentially intrudes on a concern that should be left within the Department of Education's purview.
This is not to say that sex education within Hawaii public schools can't be improved. But based on the testimony, the principal problem seems to be uneven instructional practice from school to school.
In that case, it's really the Board of Education, the governing body overseeing public education, that should steer the schools toward greater consistency.
Among the agencies submitting testimony on the bill was the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, which makes the observation that Hawaii's teen pregnancy rate ranks 17th in the nation.
In other aspects of the public's sexual health, the state ranks eighth in the rate of chlamydia infections, and among sexually active teens, most used no birth control - no disease-preventing condom or any other contraceptive.
So Hawaii's keiki clearly need good information, and the schools need to sharpen their delivery system.
But HB 399, which on Wednesday passed the House Committee on Education, may not be the best instrument for change.
Before members of the full House take a vote, they should note the opposition raised by state schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.
"This bill attempts to legislate curriculum content that is better left to the Department and Board of Education to determine within their constitutional authority to formulate statewide educational policy," she said, hitting precisely the right point. …