Reporting child abuse
a moral obligation


A 10-year-old girl has been hospitalized with severe injuries as a result of abuse.

POVERTY and drug abuse breed many social problems, but nothing can excuse the horrible mistreatment of the 10-year-old girl found badly injured at a Big Island home.

Though authorities have not yet sorted out the circumstances, those culpable should face the full brunt of the law. Child welfare officials need to make sure the five other children removed from the same home receive proper care. In addition, the state should increase social services in the Puna district where they are sorely lacking.

The girl, identified only as Alexis, had been left by her mother at the home of acquaintances for several months. About two weeks ago, paramedics responding to a call from the acquaintances found the girl with festering head and body wounds.

A paramedic told the Star-Bulletin's Rod Thompson that the girl's injuries were so far gone that the odor from them sickened him and that a cut on her head appeared to have been infested with fly eggs. She also had puncture wounds on her face, flesh torn from her lip and other injuries. She has been hospitalized in extremely critical condition.

How a child so afflicted could be left to suffer untreated is awful to contemplate. Equally disturbing is that others were aware of the abuse, but were not moved to call authorities or take some other action.

Children who are abused often have no recourse, no one to turn to for help. People might be reluctant to become involved in such situations for fear of retaliation or creating conflict. For that reason, police and child protection officials won't disclose the source of an abuse report.

Officials say the Puna district where the home is located has substantial problems with drugs, poverty, unemployment and child abuse. Largely rural, it encompasses pocket subdivisions dotted across the eastern segment of the island south of Hilo, making it difficult to serve either by government or private organizations. Nonetheless, state agencies ought to provide some aid for people there.

Moreover, those who suspect a child is being abused have a moral obligation to tell authorities. No other child should suffer Alexis's fate.


Charter schools need
board’s oversight


The Board of Education has decided against shutting down a Big Island school.

A DECISION to allow a troubled Big Island charter school to continue operations indicates the desire of the state Board of Education to help charters succeed. Monitoring financial management and other issues is a prudent move to stabilize the school.

The problems Na Wai Ola Waters of Life has encountered aren't the norm for charter schools, but suggest the need for the board to develop more careful supervision.

More critical, the state Legislature must revisit the charter school law to correct weaknesses and untangle confusion about oversight, accountability and lines of authority, as pointed out in a report by the state Auditor's Office earlier this year.

Waters of Life was threatened with revocation of its charter because of persistent difficulties with financial management and with finding a permanent site for its campus. Part of this was due to funding shortfalls from the state, the school's administrator said, a point of constant dispute among charter schools.

With the state devising a new formula for school funding under Act 51, charter schools might fare better, but because, by law, they must provide their own facilities, they might still struggle financially.

Charter schools are publicly funded but are free from most laws and regulations except collective bargaining, health and safety and discrimination.

Charters offer alternatives to learning that can significantly benefit students who don't do well otherwise. The board recognizes the value of charters by helping them through their difficulties, but should remain watchful since they are still public institutions.

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