Proposal could give Hawaii high school students and teachers LGBTQ-inclusive education


HONOLULU (KHON2) — A bill pending in the Legislative Assembly would provide more inclusive training for students and teachers to eliminate some of the stigma around the LGBTQ community.

However, not everyone is on board.

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The proposal calls for teaching high school students about positive and accurate representations of the LGBTQ community and other gender identities. But some lawmakers worry about the overbreadth and lack of an opt-out option.

“We can respond to everyone’s needs and concerns, but not make any party feel like their voice is not being heard,” said representative Val Okimoto. “And I think that’s what we as legislators should be doing, not setting an agenda.”

Representative Okimoto – a mother herself – voted against the bill and cited her experience as a teacher and the importance of parental involvement in education.

“I would like to know what is specifically presented to my youth, my children, as a parent. When is this program going to be implemented, what should be in the program, and even at what age is it appropriate? »

Rep. Val Okimoto, (R) Mililani Mauka, MIlilani

Representative Jeanne Kapela voted in favor of the bill and said it was a student-led idea.

“This is a bill specifically that young people across the state have been clamoring for. It was their number one priority that they asked for,” Rep. Kapela said. “And I think it’s incumbent on us to really listen to what our young people want.”

Rep. Kapela said much of the proposal was aimed at educators – informing them of how to create safe spaces for every student.

“When we talk about schools as these safe spaces for students, you can’t learn if you don’t feel like your teacher respects you for who you are.”

Rep. Jeanne Kapela, (R) Naalehu, Ocean View, Captain Cook, Kailua-Kona

But Rep. Okimoto said more information was needed on exactly what students would see in class.

“And I think that needs to be resolved before we create, again, a general top-down mandate that will be taught in every school in the state,” Rep. Okimoto said.

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The bill has passed its first two readings and is now headed to the Finance Committee. Click here to learn more about HB1697.

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