School offers assistance
for Alexis' classmates

HAWAIIAN BEACHES, Hawaii » Keonepoko Elementary School officials sent a letter to parents offering emotional support to schoolmates of the 10-year-old girl who has been hospitalized with festering wounds.

The school, meanwhile, would not say whether a social worker checked up on the girl, as one normally would when a student misses classes for long periods.

The Department of Education has social workers who look into a child's home situation when the child is absent from school. Keonepoko Principal Kathleen Romero said the social worker position for her school's area in Puna was vacant since the beginning of the school year, only being filled about two weeks ago.

She said a social worker from a neighboring Kau area was supposed to fill in, but the huge geographic area of the two districts made the job difficult. Romero declined comment on whether the fill-in worker could check into the situation of the student before Feb. 7.

The letter dated Tuesday refers to the student, Alexis, who was removed from an Ainaloa home, six miles from the school, after her caretaker called 911 for help on Feb. 7. The girl was found with part of her upper lip missing, plus numerous other injuries, including open sores with a bad smell suggesting infection.

Alexis was last reported in extremely critical condition at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children. Police continue to investigate the case as possible child abuse.

The school is "deeply saddened and concerned" by the girl's injuries, Romero wrote to parents. "While this is not an incident that occurred at school, it does affect our Keonepoko Ohana."

"Due to media coverage as well as circulating rumors, we expect students to react with a variety and range of emotions and behaviors. We must acknowledge the reactions and respond to them," Romero wrote.

Schoolteachers are being advised on how to help each class cope, and further help from therapists and psychologists is available to "students who may require a higher level of assistance," Romero wrote.

Romero previously said Alexis did not return to school on Jan. 3 following winter break. The reason given by her caretaker was that Alexis was "under medical care," Romero said.

Her caretaker, Hyacinth Poouahi, said on a 911 tape that Alexis was hurting herself and that Poouahi began trying to get psychological help for her around the beginning of January.

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