Friday, December 14, 2001

Teacher accused
of sex assault

He is charged with fondling a
student at a Wahiawa school

Star-Bulletin staff

An Oahu grand jury indicted a Wahiawa Middle School social studies teacher yesterday for allegedly fondling and sexually assaulting a 14-year-old student.

Gabriel Kealoha, 28, was charged with three counts of second-degree sexual assault and three counts of fourth-degree sexual assault.

The alleged incident occurred May 27, a Sunday, on school grounds. It was not reported until a few weeks ago, according to Greg Knudsen, Department of Education spokesman. Kealoha had been teaching until he was placed on paid administrative leave about three weeks ago, Knudsen said.

"The school did act immediately upon learning of the allegations and did remove the individual from the classroom, pending the outcome of the investigation or the legal outcome," Knudsen said.

Kealoha was arrested Wednesday. He is free after posting $15,000 bail.

Vice Principal Tim Bollinger said Kealoha, who has taught at the school since August 1998, has never been in any trouble.

"He has been held in high regard by myself and our colleagues," he said. "He has a good rapport with kids, is motivated, a hard worker and enthusiastic."

"We're not convinced of the facts," Bollinger said. "Right now, there's no conclusion drawn."

The girl was an eighth-grader at the time of the alleged incident and is now a ninth-grader at Leilehua High School, he said.

Bollinger said the school is conducting its own internal investigation.

The investigation should be completed within two weeks, and the school then will make a recommendation to the district superintendent, who will make the final decision on any serious disciplinary action, Bollinger said.

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