Thursday, April 7, 2005

DOE fires coach
due to alcohol

Kahuku's assistant
softball coach insists
the allegations are false

The Kahuku High School girls softball coach who was accused of giving alcohol to some of his players and drinking with them has been fired following a school investigation into the charges.

Schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto, in an e-mail last week to the grandmother of the player who first brought the allegations to light, indicated that the coach's employment had been terminated.

Hamamoto was elaborating on a previous e-mail she sent the family about the case involving Bu Heffernan, the paid head coach for Kahuku High and Intermediate's varsity squad.

"When I commented that appropriate action would be taken, I was referencing the department's personnel action, which was termination," Hamamoto said in her March 29 e-mail to Melva Frazier, the player's grandmother.

Heffernan, who was placed on administrative leave when the allegations were reported to the school in January, could not be reached for comment yesterday. He did not respond to messages left at his restaurant and on his cell phone.

Heffernan previously denied the allegations.

Despite missing part of the season because of the pending investigation, Heffernan was selected coach of the year in late January by his peers in the Oahu Interscholastic Association East. The team finished the regular season 6-5.

Thomas Ching, Heffernan's volunteer assistant coach, also had been accused of providing marijuana to some players and smoking with them. He said yesterday that Heffernan was being made a scapegoat to placate those pressuring the Department of Education to take action.

Ching continued to insist that the charges were false and made by a disgruntled former player.

"It's all political," Ching said.

Ching noted that he won his case, but did not elaborate. He said he would continue to help coach the Kahuku team next season. "Nobody is going to stop me," he said.

Heffernan is the second Hawaii high school head coach to be fired in the past month following allegations that they provided alcohol to underage players.

Russell Zablan, coach of the Lanai girls basketball team, and assistant Dale Kapua were released from their jobs after some players allegedly were given alcohol during a team trip to Oahu last month. Nine of the 11 players were kicked off the team for allegedly drinking.

A police investigation is pending in the Lanai case. Providing alcohol to minors is a criminal offense.

A Honolulu Police Department spokeswoman said HPD has not opened an investigation into the Kahuku case at this time.

In her e-mail to Frazier, Hamamoto lauded Frazier's granddaughter and daughter for their roles in bringing the allegations to light.

"I commend your daughter and granddaughter for standing up and doing what is right," Hamamoto wrote.

Hamamoto also said she was saddened because the granddaughter feels she is being victimized for coming forward.

"In all the years that you and I have lived," Hamamoto wrote the grandmother, "you know that life lessons are tough and very often the right decision/action is not the popular decision or action."

Roseanne Ulii previously told the Star-Bulletin that her daughter, Kawehi Ulii, a senior at Kahuku, has been ostracized by her peers for coming forward with the allegations, which the mother eventually reported to the school.

The daughter told her mother that she was among the players who drank alcohol with Heffernan and among those who drank alcohol and smoked marijuana with Ching, according to Roseanne Ulii.

The daughter quit the team toward the end of the season after getting little playing time. Her mother said the coaches treated her daughter unfairly, a contention disputed by Heffernan and Ching.

School Principal Lisa DeLong said yesterday that the school completed its investigation and has taken appropriate action. DeLong declined further comment.

Ulii said she has not been informed by the school or the department what actions have been taken against the coaching staff.

"It would be nice for them to contact us," Ulii said. "I think that would be a courteous step to take."

Ulii said she thought firing the coach was an appropriate sanction, a sentiment echoed by Frazier.

But Frazier said she was disturbed that her granddaughter was continuing to be ostracized for doing the right thing and confessing to what happened.

"She's the only one who is still being punished," Frazier said.

It is not clear if Kahuku is planning to discipline any of the players who allegedly participated in the illicit activities.

State Department of Education

E-mail to City Desk


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