Monday, April 26, 1999

Isle group:
Schools must
face racism

The group says a Colorado-
type incident could
happen here

By Lori Tighe


Hawaii schools need to address racism before our cultural melting pot explodes into another school massacre like Columbine High School in Colorado, violence prevention authorities said yesterday.

Racially motivated outbursts continue to increase in Hawaii, while eight mass school shootings with some racial undertones have occurred on the mainland in the past two years, the group said.

"How we grapple with the unprecedented cultural diversification of America will be the leading challenge of the 21st century," said Michael D'Andrea, professor of education at University of Hawaii and board member of the Violence Prevention Consortium.

Police and school officials have been quick to respond to incidents in Hawaii schools since the Colorado rampage last week, in which 15 people died. Kids have worn trench coats at Radford High and a girl was arrested for threatening to bomb Redemption Academy, a private Kailua school. Police have responded to at least 10 calls at Oahu schools.

Increased security will remain in place through this week, and the Department of Education has sent memos to all schools requesting that they review safety procedures. Police and school administrators also are asking parents to hold their children more accountable.

"Racial factors are not the only factors responsible," D'Andrea added. "Domestic violence, substance abuse and the media also contribute to the problem."

The Violence Prevention Consortium called for a meeting with Schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu to discuss what more can be done in Hawaii schools.

"Children don't have the skills to negotiate differences," D'Andrea said.

School counselors are overworked, violence-prevention services are fragmented and program funding has decreased since 1991, he said.

The consortium recently received $371,000 from the Department of Health to institute peace-making programs in four public schools, one in each county, said Martha Ross, president of the consortium.

"In addition to the three Rs, reading, writing and arithmetic, we need to teach a fourth R -- relationships," Ross said.

Waiau Elementary School in Pearl City, and Kohala Elementary near Kona were chosen to begin violence-prevention programs. The consortium will soon choose two more schools in Kauai and Maui counties.

"We can not wait to release doves in remembrance of our children, we need to release them now," said Judith Elliot, principal of Waiau Elementary.

Teachers need counseling skills to identify and deal with outcast children, said D'Andrea, who is already helping Waiau teachers.

D'Andrea, also executive director of the National Institute of Multicultural Competence, just finished a study with Judy Daniels on racism intervention among third-graders in a Honolulu school.

The principal called D'Andrea to intervene because of an outbreak of racial slurs and fights among third-graders.

A large number of Japanese families had moved out of the school district in the past seven years, while a large number of Samoan, Tongan and African-American military families moved in, D'Andrea said.

When the racial power tilts to new ethnic groups, children feel threatened by loss of control, power and status.

"It's stressful," he said.

Of the 117 children in the study, 35 percent were Hawaiian, 25 percent were Filipino, 15 percent were Korean, 12 percent were African-American; 10 percent were Caucasian, and 3 percent were other Pacific Islanders.

Most children attending public schools in America will come from diverse cultural, ethnic or racial backgrounds by 2020, according to future projections.

Major factors include changes in immigration patterns and birthrates among racial or ethnic minority groups in the past two decades, D'Andrea notes.

Graduate students trained in multicultural counseling conducted 10 guidance sessions in D'Andrea's study, one a week, teaching the students interactive skills.

The kids were tested at the end and showed marked improvement in relating to each other, as well as reduced racial flare-ups.

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