School code may
forbid harassment of
gay, lesbian students
The school board OKs
proposed changes to the
Supporters of Kalihi schoolBy Crystal Kua
lobby Board of Education
Students harassed in school due to their sexual orientation would be protected under proposed changes to the student misconduct and discipline code approved by the Board of Education.
Last night's action came after board members heard stories of students who were teased, chased and beaten in school because they were or were perceived to be gay or lesbian.
As a result of such harassment, these students are at greater risk of running away, fighting, not finishing school and being suicidal, testifiers said.
A board committee last month approved a proposed Chapter 19 rule change that would broaden the definition of harassment, which is a punishable offense, to include acts based on race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, religion or disability.
But civil rights groups, members of the gay and lesbian community and relatives of gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities urged the school board last night to add sexual orientation to the list to protect these students.
Parent Shawn K. Bombard testified that when her gay son, who is now an adult, went to public school, he was intimidated, assaulted, chased through hallways and "pummeled" in the face and chest.
Her son, who sustained temporary blindness after being beaten, eventually dropped out of school, but later he obtained his equivalency diploma.
Another gay high school student submitted written testimony that last month he was grabbed by the throat, thrown down to the ground and stomped on "like a cockroach" by another student while a teacher did not stop the fight.
"I never thought it could happen to me. And, now that it has, I want to make sure that it never happens to another gay person," he wrote.
Board Vice Chairwoman Karen Knudsen said that initially excluding sexual orientation from the definition was an oversight and not intentional. "We're glad it was brought to our attention."
The proposed changes to Chapter 19 will now go out for public hearing before the amendments are given final approval.
Supporters of Kalihi school
lobby Board of Education
The Senate president would haveBy Crystal Kua
Linapuni Elementary turn into
an early childhood center
While attending Linapuni Elementary in Kalihi, second-grader Alisha Jane Fatutoa learned to read, write, add, subtract and do a host of other things.
Last night, Fatutoa learned something else: a lesson in civics.
"Most importantly, it has taught me how to ... fight for what I believe is right," the pint-size protester told the Board of Education. "This is why I am here tonight, so I can fight for my school."
Teachers, students, parents and supporters of the award-winning elementary school turned out en masse, jamming into the board meeting room to protest a proposal by state Senate President Norman Mizuguchi to convert Linapuni to a pilot early childhood education center.
They sat and stood shoulder to shoulder holding signs saying, "Save Linapuni," "National Blue Ribbon School."
Board members, who have the statutory authority to open or close schools, received leis with strands of blue and white construction paper hearts, each with a message handwritten from a child who wanted to prevent the closing.
The school currently serves students in grades kindergarten through second grade who live in the public housing complexes of Kuhio Park Terrace and Kuhio Homes.
Under the bill, students would be transfered to either Kalihiwaena or Fern Elementary school, and Linapuni would become an early childhood education center serving infants to children who are 4.
"How is it that no such dialogue, conversations or forums were held to obtain information, ideas and feelings of the Linapuni community before the closure of a school?" said Linapuni Principal Evelyn Nugent, who said many read about the proposed closing in the Star-Bulletin.
Most agreed that creating early childhood centers is a good idea, but Linapuni is the wrong place.
"I was delighted that Sen. Mizuguchi wanted a demonstration early childhood program ... but it doesn't make sense to eliminate an outstanding program which is already serving young children," said Stephanie Feeney, a University of Hawaii education professor.
Board members, who were in support of Linapuni, also wondered about the rationale behind the measure and why no one at Linapuni was consulted.
"I can't understand why Sen. Mizuguchi did it this way," board Chairman Mitsugi Nakashima said.