Wednesday, December 1, 1999

Parents call for stiffer
penalties after attack
on boy at school

By Gary T. Kubota


MAKAWAO, Maui -- Appalled by the attack on a 13-year-old boy by students at Kalama Intermediate, Maui residents last night called for tougher penalties on the alleged assailants and criticized school administrators for failing to provide enough security.

Many parents said suspending the four students for five days was not enough, in light of the serious injuries to the pancreas suffered by Cody Tavares, who remains in guarded condition at Kapiolani Medical Center.

"You need to re-evaluate the situation," said John Tenada Jr., a friend of the Tavares family.

More than 100 people attended a Parent Teacher Association meeting last night at Kalama Intermediate's cafeteria to discuss the assault that took place during lunch recess at the school Nov. 17

School officials say the attack took place in a restricted area where students aren't supposed to gather, away from the view of lunch supervisors.

Kalama is one of the largest intermediate schools in the state, with 1,120 students from upcountry Maui, including Haiku, Kula, Pukalani and Makawao.

Lynn Awai-Tavares, Cody's mother, said her son wasn't feeling well and was seated when a group of boys approached him and one of them suggested kicking "the fat boy."

Cody's pancreas has swelled to three times its normal size. He is being fed intravenously.

The crowd applauded as individuals suggested expelling or extending the suspension of the alleged attackers who have returned to school.

They criticized the school administration's decision to allow the students to return Monday.

Some residents said school Principal Stephen Yamada was not accurate in describing the four students as having no record of previous assaults.

"It's not the first time," said Dustin Collins, 13, a friend of Cody's.

Collins said the boys had attacked Cody on several other occasions and that Cody had reported the incidents to school officials but nothing was done to discipline the attackers.

Maui District School Superintendent Paul Brown said the suspension was just the initial action and that stiffer penalties may occur once the police investigation is finished.

"This is a very unusual situation," he said.

Several parents said their children also had been assaulted at the school and they weren't satisfied with the way counselors and administrators responded to their complaints.

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