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StarBulletin.com

Next time, police will be notified


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POSTED: Wednesday, September 09, 2009

After facing a barrage of criticism for not calling police when a 12-year-old student reported she was raped on campus, Kamehameha Schools now plans to alert authorities of “;serious offenses”; in the future.

In a Sept. 6 letter to the “;Kamehameha-Kapalama Ohana,”; Headmaster Michael Chun wrote that the school's “;first response is to immediately protect the children who are involved once we learn of an incident.”;

He said the school followed normal procedure last week, ensuring the students were safe, gathering information, then notifying parents and assisting them if they wished to notify police. But in an apparent shift, the letter goes on to say:

“;However, we also recognize the police have a kuleana (responsibility) to investigate and gather evidence when a potential crime has occurred,”; Chun wrote. “;We respect that kuleana and in the future will notify the proper authorities of serious offenses even as we fulfill our kuleana to our haumana (students).”;

The girl, a boarder at the school, told the administration on the morning of Aug. 31, a Monday, that she had been repeatedly sexually assaulted in a dormitory on the Kapalama campus over the weekend.

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The police arrested two 13-year-old male students the next day, and they were referred to Family Court on five counts of first-degree sexual assault, as well as third-degree sexual assault and burglary, police said.

Last week, Kamehameha Schools spokeswoman Ann Botticelli told the Star-Bulletin, “;We rely on parents to file criminal complaints on behalf of the children.”; She added that the school calls police when there is imminent danger to students.

State law requires “;employees or officers of any public or private school”; to immediately report suspected child abuse or neglect to the Department of Human Services or police. Abuse includes “;when the child has been the victim of sexual contact or conduct.”;

“;If it's something involving family members, then we would investigate,”; said Toni Schwartz, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services. “;If it doesn't involve a relative or family member, then it should be reported to the police.”;

The news from Kamehameha Schools last week brought up painful memories for Carmael Kamealoha Stagner, 36, of Kaneohe. She contacted the Star-Bulletin to say that as a 12-year-old at Kamehameha, she had been sexually harassed, pinched and grabbed by the breasts. After she reported one incident to administrators, a group of boys sexually assaulted her in the locker room, she said.

“;They cornered me after I came out of the shower,”; she said. “;I had only a towel on. I fought them off as much as I could. They were telling me during the time they were assaulting me that they were doing it because I told.”;

She went home that day and refused to return to the school, although she did not tell her parents why.

“;Today I know those acts were degrees of sexual harassment and assault, and another young lady has been victimized,”; said Stagner, who is a substance abuse counselor. “;Could I have prevented her pain had I been more assertive when I was 12 years old?

“;When I heard that the school didn't report it, what I thought was, 'How many other incidents happened that the school didn't report?'”; Stagner said. “;That really bothered me when it said the police weren't informed. You've been responsible for children for over 100 years, and you don't have a policy and procedure on reporting sexual assault?”;

In Hawaii's public schools, the discipline code requires staff to report serious offenses, according to Sandy Goya, spokeswoman for the Department of Education. “;Most certainly, if there is a burglary or assault on campus, we would definitely report it to police. Or if we find a dangerous weapon on campus, like a firearm, we would certainly be reporting that immediately.”;

'Iolani School follows similar procedures, according to spokeswoman Cathy Lee Chong.

“;As a school, we are required by law to report any suspected child abuse to the authorities,”; she said. “;Any serious cases, we would definitely call authorities. The students are in our jurisdiction. Their safety and welfare is our top priority. If there is an allegation of rape, we would definitely call the authorities.”;

» For the full text of Michael Chun's letter visit www.hsblinks.com/pk.