Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Suit claims harassment
at Mililani High

By Debra Barayuga

The parent of a ninth-grader at Mililani High who alleges racial harassment by fellow students says administrators failed to properly handle repeated complaints.

Defendants in the lawsuit filed yesterday in U.S. District Court are the state Department of Education, physical education teacher Hal Takahashi and other unidentified individuals. Mililani High administrators, who are on summer break, and Takahashi could not be reached for comment.

Greg Knudsen, department spokesman, said he had not seen the complaint and was unable to comment.

The harassment allegedly began in September 2000, with the last incident occurring on May 21. According to the suit, the parent notified Vice Principal George Okino about instances where a classmate in his son's physical education class had called him "nigger" in the presence of other classmates.

After the second complaint, Okino advised the father to report the hostility to Takahashi, the boy's physical education teacher.

Takahashi said he would speak to the students involved and asked that any future incident be reported to him so he could take care of it, the suit says; however, the student was harassed even more by the classmate and two others for reporting the incidents.

The suit alleges Takahashi punched the student once in the chest in February and would have punched him again had another teacher not intervened.

This occurred after the student refused to accompany Takahashi to the office.

Takahashi was allegedly yelling and taunting him, and the student felt he was being unfairly singled out for an incident he did not start.

The student filed an assault complaint with police and later sought a temporary restraining order against Takahashi.

The student took a leave of absence from Feb. 13 to March 8 and applied for a geographic exception to attend Leilehua High School.

The student's father was told by the principal there that their student capacity was not full.

The student's request to attend Leilehua was later denied.

His appeal was also denied due to the enrollment capacity at Leilehua, the suit said.

At a court hearing on the restraining order, Takahashi was ordered to stay away from the student, who was to be transferred to another physical education class taught by another teacher.

But when the student returned to school on March 9, Takahashi was again his teacher.

The suit contends the student was denied an education free from racial harassment and that the department improperly trained and supervised its employees in their handling of discriminatory incidents.

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