HONOLULU – The University of Hawaii Center on Disability Studies gives gift cards to middle school students who participate in a controversial sex education program.

The gift cards, valued at between $10 and $20 each, are issued to 11, 12 and 13-year-olds who participate in Pono Choices. About $52,200 of a $5 million U.S. Office of Adolescent Health grant were used to buy the cards.

“The Pono Choices program provides gift cards to students, who have taken the course, as an incentive to complete student surveys. Student opinion is the most powerful measure in the effectiveness of the program and we support the efforts in seeking such feedback,” said Donalyn Dela Cruz, a spokeswoman for the Hawaii State Department of Education.

The curriculum, developed by the University of Hawaii Center on Disability Studies, set off a firestorm over the past year. Some parents and lawmakers said the program, which taught children as young as age 11 about anal and homosexual sex, was inaccurate and inappropriate.

Rep. Bob McDermott, R-Aiea, who has a 12-year-old son in public school, led the charge to pressure the state Board of Education to pull the curriculum. He accused the DOE of “normalizing homosexual lifestyles” and “putting students at risk by withholding critical facts.”

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