Tuesday, May 25, 1999

Lingle’s leadership
of Hawaii Republicans

Bullet The issue: Linda Lingle was elected chairwoman of the state Republican Party.
Bullet Our view: She is right to assume responsibility for the party's efforts in the 2000 elections.

LINDA Lingle's courageous bid for the governorship fell 5,000 votes short last November, but even in defeat she gave the Republican Party of Hawaii renewed hope for better days. Now she has assumed responsibility for fulfilling that hope by campaigning for and easily winning election as state chairwoman.

Her decision can only help a party in dire need of an injection of enthusiasm.

Lingle's immediate goal as chairwoman is to elect more Republicans to the state Legislature and county councils in 2000. The failure of the Republicans to increase their representation in the Legislature in last year's elections was a disappointment in view of the evident strong disenchantment with the Democrats and widespread complaints about the stagnant economy.

Those factors contributed to Lingle's impressive showing but did not translate into success in legislative races, in part because the GOP as the minority party has more difficulty in fielding candidates.

Discontent with the Democrats may be even stronger now after their dismal showing at this year's Legislature. The rejection of the renominations of Margery Bronster and Earl Anzai as attorney general and budget director respectively demonstrated that politics as usual prevails in the majority party despite all the calls for reform.

This should give the Republicans an opportunity to make gains in the off-year elections. If they succeed, the momentum could carry over into the 2002 elections. And if Lingle runs for governor three years from now, she will not be facing an incumbent, as she did last year.

Is she giving up on the governorship? Not at all. Her candid response to those who suspect she may use the party position to further her candidacy for governor in 2002: "They're absolutely right."

Lingle's supporters showed up in force at the GOP state convention in Poipu, Kauai. Several of them were elected to party positions under Lingle, starting with Shelton Jim On, the Lingle campaign's downtown region leader, as first vice chairman.

The Lingle supporters tend to be more liberal than some traditional Republicans on social issues. Some are disenchanted former Democrats.

They bring fresh faces and new energy to a party that has often seemed numbed by decades of defeat. They also seem better positioned to capitalize on voter discontent with the ruling Democratic Party.

The GOP's immediate need is to recruit more people willing to work for change, particularly those who might become candidates for elected office. Lingle's last campaign demonstrated there is a potential for that but the effort has to be broadened.

Democrats have controlled the Legislature since 1954, the governorship since 1962, but their days of control may not last much longer. Lingle offers the Republicans the best chance in many years of ending one-party control in Hawaii.

Sexual harassment

Bullet The issue: The Supreme Court has ruled that schools can be held negligent for failing to respond to students' complaints about sexual harassment by classmates.
Bullet Our view: The ruling should improve the climate on school campuses.

SCHOOLS receiving federal financial assistance have been legally required to prevent sexual harassment since a Supreme Court decision in 1992. The court has expanded that duty considerably in the past year, holding school officials liable for responding with "deliberate indifference" to harassment complaints against teachers and, in the most recent case, classmates.

The legal standard should help improve the environment for students who make school officials aware of violations.

The high court ruled in 1992 that sexually harassed students could collect damages from schools under Title IX, the principal federal law protecting students from sex discrimination.

In a case involving a sexual relationship between a teacher and student, the court ruled last June that schools could not be held negligent unless school officials were aware of the teacher's misconduct and failed to adequately respond. In the case at issue, the school's officials were not aware, the court ruled last June.

The Supreme Court now has extended that standard to cases of students being sexually harassed by other students. School officials in Forsyth, Ga., can be held liable for "deliberate indifference" to complaints by a fifth-grade girl about unwelcome sexual conduct directed at her by a classmate, the court ruled.

The girl and her parents complained repeatedly about the boy's actions, which included verbal remarks and attempts to fondle her. But school officials took no action and thus, the court ruled, may be found negligent.

The standard for finding liability is high and is intended to differentiate between severe harassment and mere playground taunts. In the court's opinion, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said a school's liability should be limited to circumstances in which the school "exercises substantial control over both the harasser and the context in which the known harassment occurs."

The ruling should not result in a spate of lawsuits against schools because of typical juvenile behavior. Nor should it cause school officials to impose rigid codes of behavior upon students. However, it should make school officials respond promptly and emphatically to serious instances of sexual harassment among students.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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