Assaults by children
at schools are on rise

Two boys, ages 8 and 9, are
the latest arrested on campuses

Police say they have made more arrests of young schoolchildren for assault recently but do not think they are seeing a trend.

Officers arrested an 8-year-old boy Thursday for allegedly attempting to stab two employees at a Waipahu school. It was his third arrest in three weeks.

And a 9-year-old boy was arrested last week at Kahuku Elementary School after he allegedly bit the vice principal.

Police Lt. Mark Hibbs acknowledged that there have been other recent arrests of young schoolchildren for crimes such as assault or making threats, but he said the problem comes in cycles.

"It's hard to pinpoint a reason why," he said.

The 8-year-old arrested for suspicion of first-degree attempted assault Thursday at Honowai Elementary School allegedly tried to stab a 39-year-old female school counselor with a letter opener.

He also allegedly attempted to stab a 41-year-old educational aide who intervened, police said.

The child also had been arrested Monday for first-degree terroristic threatening after he allegedly told his mother that he wanted to kill an educational assistant, who overheard the threat. The same boy was arrested two weeks earlier for kicking a teacher.

Hibbs said that under state law, if a Department of Education employee is victimized, the offense could be upgraded: What would be harassment may be bumped up to terroristic threatening, or third-degree assault could get increased to a second-degree assault.

Hibbs said young children rarely get prosecuted for such offenses. He noted that some of the younger children arrested are enrolled in special education classes.

The 9-year-old who allegedly bit a vice principal was a socially well adjusted, academically average student who displayed no problems in class, said Kahuku Elementary School Principal Pauline Masaniai.

"But he throws a fit about having to come to school," she said, and once locked himself inside the van when his mother tried to get him out.

On another occasion last year, he bit a school counselor, according to Masaniai.

So when the boy again refused to get out of the van last week, his mother asked the school to take a tougher stand and help her get him out.

The vice principal picked him up and was carrying him to class when he was bitten, according to police.

"Normally that wouldn't have been what we would do," she said, "but the mother requested someone remove him.

"The intention to bring police on campus was to encourage him to go to class," she said, only to impress upon him that truancy was illegal.

She said it was never the school's intention to arrest the child for biting the vice principal, nor to have the boy arrested. She sees the arrest as an isolated case, and the first at the school since 1988.

But Masaniai said the lack of respect for authority and defiant attitude usually seen at the high school level is now showing up at the elementary school.

At Honowai, Principal Curtis Young would not comment on the details of the 8-year-old's arrests. He said there have been only five or six arrests of students in the nine years he has been principal.

"This is a very isolated situation," he said. "This is definitely not the norm."

Some arrests are initiated by an adult or the school administration.

Most arrests resulted from fights between children, where parents of a child who was slapped wanted the police called, he said.

Young, who has been Honowai's principal for 15 years, said problems seem to occur in cycles, and said there were more problems five to six years ago.

"Ultimately for us, the safety of our students and staff come first," he said. "We will take appropriate action to ensure their safety."


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