Kill haole dayBy Craig Gima
A hate crimes bill could open up the state to lawsuits because of the practice known as "kill haole day" in Hawaii public schools, a Republican state representative says.
Rep. Jim Rath (R, Kona) questioned advocates of the bill (Senate Bill 605, SD1) about a provision that would allow lawsuits for acts of violence, threats, intimidation or harassment based on race and other factors.
Rath suggested that "kill haole day" is a long-standing tradition in some schools and unless the state is able to completely eliminate "kill haole day," it would open the state up to liability.
School Superintendent Paul LeMahieu said he is aware of "kill haole day" but is not aware of any recent incidents. He added that he hopes the practice of beating up Caucasian students on the last day of school is a thing of the past.
"It's time for "kill haole day' to be an ancient joke," LeMahieu said. "All kids deserve to come to school without fearing for their safety."
Proponents of the bill argued that allowing for lawsuits might force compliance.
The bill also would allow enhanced penalties for hate crimes - something proponents say is needed in Hawaii. For example in a case where a hate crime was the predominant motive, manslaughter could carry life in prison instead of the maximum of 20 years in prison.
William Woods of the Gay and Lesbian Education and Advocacy Foundation pointed to the verdict in the Kenneth Brewer murder case, where Stephen Bright was found guilty of third-degree assault instead of murder and served just one year in prison. The defense successfully argued Bright reacted in self-defense after Brewer made a sexual advance toward him.
Woods noted that a man was recently sentenced to one year in prison after killing his dog.
Martin Rice of Lambda Aloha, a gay-support group on Kauai, told the House Labor Committee that the vote against same sex marriages gave the impression that it is OK to discriminate against gays.
He questioned whether the constitutional amendment would have even been put on the ballot if it were about race, rather than sexuality.
Labor Chairwoman Terry Yoshinaga (D, Moiliili) said the committee will pass some form of the bill, but she may delete the provision dealing with lawsuits when the committee votes on the bill tomorrow.
The bill also requires police and the attorney general to begin reporting hate crimes to the federal government. Yoshinaga said she will likely keep some form of that provision in the bill.
"It's such an emotional and controversial issue I want to make sure we're not just rushing to move something without consideration of the impact," she said.
She noted that the federal government is considering its own hate crimes legislation.
Hawaii Revised Statutes