Teachers' arrests outrage parents
Many say the pair should be fired for allegedly smoking pot
Some students and parents at Mililani Middle School were shocked and disappointed after two teachers were arrested for allegedly smoking marijuana before they headed to work.
"I think it's absolutely awful," said Stacy Starustka, who waited to pick up her daughter. "I think they should be terminated."
Some other parents and students agreed, saying the Department of Education should fire teachers Benjamin Ayson, 32, and Lisa Luhrsen, 36, for the alleged drug-related offense.
About 8:45 a.m. Monday, police said, Ayson and Luhrsen were allegedly smoking marijuana in Ayson's green pickup truck at the Mililani Park & Ride, 95-1101 Ukuwai St.
The parking lot is a couple of minutes from the school. Police said a parent recognized the teachers and then followed the truck to the school. Police said the parent spoke to Principal Roger Kim, vice principals and school security about what she had observed earlier. Kim declined to comment on Ayson and Luhrsen.
School officials investigated. Marijuana and paraphernalia were found in the truck and on Ayson and Luhrsen, police said. School officials called police about 11:45 a.m. Police arrested Ayson and Luhrsen on suspicion of third-degree promotion of dangerous drugs, considered a petty misdemeanor.
Both were released after they each posted $50 bail.
Ayson and Luhrsen are scheduled to appear in Wahiawa District Court on Dec. 26. If charged with the offense, both could face up to 30 days in jail.
Both Ayson and Luhrsen could not be reached for comment.
Ayson and Luhrsen were placed on paid leave while the Department of Education conducts an investigation.
Ayson has been a teacher for 8 1/2 years. He previously taught at Ilima Intermediate School for two years before he taught at Mililani Middle, according to a spokeswoman.
Luhrsen has been a teacher for eight years. She previously taught at Red Hill Elementary School for about six months before going to Mililani Middle.
Students in middle school are at a critical age where they are impressionable, said June Yoshida, whose son, Bradley, is a sixth-grader at the school. They look up to their teachers, she said.
Seventh-grader Angella Alania said, "I didn't think our teachers would do that."
Some parents and students said mandatory random drug testing should be implemented for teachers, but Roger Takabayashi, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said that is not a solution.
Drugs are a societal problem, not a teacher problem, Takabayashi said, adding that the teachers' union does not support mandatory random drug testing for teachers.
Like some parents, Takabayashi said he was also disappointed upon learning of the teachers' arrests.
On Oct. 10, Leilehua High School teacher Lee N. Anzai was arrested by law enforcement officials of the Hawaii Rapid Reduction Drug Task Force for allegedly dealing crystal methamphetamine or "ice" to an undercover officer. Anzai, 29, was charged and faces a minimum of 10 years to possibly life in prison. He is believed to be the first public school teacher in Hawaii to be charged with dealing ice.