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Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Board of Education
candidates speak
up on the issues

16 outline their views on
matters ranging from students
to administration

By Harold Morse

How to counter student harassment, including verbal and physical abuse, was the focus of a Board of Education candidate forum last night.

"Teach tolerance," Donna Ikeda, an Oahu-at-large candidate and former state senator, told the small audience at the state Capitol.

"Every child is entitled to be free from any form of harassment," said Meyer M. Ueoka, interim board member and Maui candidate.

Sixteen Board of Education candidates, including four incumbent board members, spoke at a forum sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, Hawaii Business Roundtable and Hawaii State Teachers Association.

Ueoka recommended that each district be assigned an investigator to look into harassment reports.

"Relieve the principal of the responsibility of investigation," Ueoka said.

"I believe that we need to protect all students from harassment," and the emphasis should be that it will not be tolerated, said incumbent Denise Matsumoto.


Jeff Rezents, Central Oahu candidate, acknowledged students need to be thick-skinned but said they all need to learn early that everyone has equal rights.

"I'm in favor of very strict punishment in physical abuse," he said.

Any juvenile who commits an adult crime can do adult time, Rezents said.

"I think all our children need protecting," said Daniel Romero, another Central Oahu candidate.

"Our children should be able to go to school without fear of any type of harassment," he said.

"No child should be harassed in school, and they should be in a safe place and have a safe environmental for learning," said Carol Gabbard, an Oahu-at-large candidate.

Respective roles the Board of Education and the state superintendent play also drew comment.

"I don't think that the board should micromanage the superintendent," said Brian K. Blundell, a Maui candidate.

William Myers, another Maui candidate, said the board's job is to govern and the superintendent's is to manage.

"The superintendent has too much authority already," said Malcolm Kirkpatrick, a Honolulu candidate who wants the state system decentralized.

Some characterized the superintendent as a chief executive officer who needs clout to run the schools.

The superintendent has to carry out orders of the board and enforce the policy, and should have authority for that, said Oahu-at-large candidate Jacqueline Heupel.

A chief executive officer has to be able to hire his own team, Ikeda said.

Otherwise, how can he be accountable? she asked.

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