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BOE delays vote on changes to student disciplinary code


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POSTED: Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The state Board of Education postponed voting on proposed changes to the student discipline code yesterday after hearing from a dozen adults who opposed stringent changes in the rules of conduct.

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Parties that were for and against the proposed dog program voiced their opinions on the controversial issue but left the BOE officials with no votes.

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The proposed changes to Chapter 19 of the state administrative rules would permit random searches of student lockers, define physical contact including “;consensual touching of body parts”; as disorderly conduct and ban a wide variety of goods including intoxicating substances, gum and cell phones.

“;These rules set children up as guilty until proven innocent,”; said Pamela Lichty, president of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii. “;Drug searches are not a preventative program. The rules set up a totalitarian regime ... at a time in the lives of youths when it's important to feel connectedness with school.”;

Kat Brady, coordinator of the Community Alliance on Prisons, said, “;Rather than punitive practices, misconduct should be addressed through restorative practices, with the point of understanding the impact of your actions. By making so many rules, you promote criminal behavior. For example, if you ban candy, you're just encouraging a kid to hide it.”;

Attorney Jo-Ann Adams said, “;You are conveying a form of criminal status on youths ... as is done with the homeless—behavior that is lawful in the rest of society, yet on the school grounds, if you're a student, it's criminal.”;

Sinclair Ferguson, speaking for University of Hawaii law professor Jon Van Dyke, told the board that random locker searches would be illegal.

“;It violates Hawaii and federal law, which require a particularized suspicion before search,”; Ferguson said. “;It would open the way for officials to read diaries, search items sensitive to students, condoms and tampons.”;

Whitney White, owner of Interquest Detection Canines of Hawaii, told the board members that she has been hired by private schools and businesses to have her golden retriever search for drugs, alcohol and firearms.

“;We should be supporting the students who want to be in a safe atmosphere at school,”; she said. White said a pilot program on a Maui campus led to “;reduction in other behaviors such as smoking in bathrooms”; while the dog was present.

Board members came prepared to vote on the Chapter 19 package, which has been in the works for three years. But Chairman Garret Toguchi postponed the matter until June 18 after the discussion bogged down on a list of amendments proposed by member Kim Coco Iwamoto.

Board members supported one Iwamoto amendment, indicating they might not expand on the list of what constitutes “;contraband,”; particularly cell phones.