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Parents Pull Threatened Student from Big Island School

March 22, 2018, 11:01 AM HST (Updated March 22, 2018, 11:01 AM)
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Two Big Island parents say a student in a local elementary school class has threatened to kill a classmate—their daughter—on Valentine’s Day, the same day that 17 people were killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

When the school’s administration did not, in the parents’ opinion, sufficiently respond to the threat, the parents were left no choice but to remove their child from the school.

“I am a parent whose daughter attends a Big Island elementary school,” the parent wrote in an email to Big Island Now. “Since being transferred to my daughter’s school, this student has been completely disruptive, committed several assaults, one in which a girl sustained a black eye. The student also threatened my daughter with scissors, then threatened to bring his BB gun to school with real bullets to kill her.”

The girl’s parents feel the school is not doing enough to protect their daughter and other students at the school from this threatening student.

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“After several meetings, school administration, in my opinion, has been minimally supportive and now we and several other sets of parents are left no option but to change our kids’ schools,” the girl’s father said. 

“We have no ill feelings toward the student at the center of this incident,” the father said. “We believe the student has potential and with continued education and professional support, this student can be successful in life.”

“But I just want these kids to be safe,” the father said. “We feel it necessary to get the word out about what is going on at our schools so we can protect our keiki. I am pursuing every option to ensure the safety of my daughter and the other kids at this elementary school.”

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“As soon as the incident was reported to us, I contacted the police,” the father said. “Two officers came to the house that evening and took a report. The officers were very empathetic and helpful. They requested that we recontact them should the school not take sufficient action. Since then, the HPD has interviewed the principal and followed up with us.”

But the school, per their policy, is not allowed to disclose what they have done to discipline this student.

“We have only been told that they are meeting with the parents and have developed a plan,” the parent reported. “However, the morning that we reported the threat to our daughter, and the assault of the other young student, the threatening student was only transferred to another class. The teacher of this class was not informed of the student’s actions/threats and the student was allowed to have contact with other students, our daughter and the student who was assaulted the previous day. Based on that interaction, I don’t feel they have taken adequate steps to protect my daughter and her classmates.”

Since then, the parents had a follow-up meeting with the school administration to ask two questions.

“Are they checking the student’s bag on a daily basis?” the parent asked. School officials responded that they were.

“What actions were they taking to ensure that this student was not going to have contact with our daughter or the other victims again?”

“The school administrators responded that they had an obligation to protect both our child’s and the other child’s rights,” said the parent. “Thus, they could not guarantee us that the student would not have contact with them again.”

The school’s administration referenced FERPA, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, the parents reported.

The girl’s parents have not been informed that any action will be taken, so they say they can only assume that the student will continue to remain in the general student population where they feel the student poses a threat not only to the students safety but the rights afforded them under Hawai‘i Administrative Rules (see below) for a disruption-free and safe learning environment.

The elementary school’s Student Bill of Rights reads: “The students in our school deserve to learn and play in the best environment we can provide. Accordingly, all staff and students will make every effort to observe the following: Students in our school have the right to: Learn in a disruption-free environment, Know what is expected of them at all times in every area of the school, Be protected from physical harm, Be protected from verbal abuse, Have their positive behavior recognized, Have their school supplies protected, Have their concerns heard and Be treated with kindness and caring.”

The school’s student and parent handbook references Department of Education Chapter 19 Guidelines for rules and discipline. According to the guidelines, a “Class A” offense has a consequence of notification of parents, detention or suspension, notification of police or dismissal.

“The school’s administration did not provide any information about the actions the school has taken and they have been consistent and emphatic about their inability to share any information in reference to school discipline, which I am fine with,” said the girl’s father. “I only want reassurance and action that shows the school is taking every possible step to keep our children safe.”

“We have nothing but love and support for the teachers at this school,” the father said. “They have been empathetic and supportive throughout this process. Our concern is that the administration does not appear to be taking necessary action to protect our children.”

“Our friends have removed their two children from school and we have filed for a geographic exception to take our daughter to a safe elementary school,” the father said. “Despite a plea for assistance to the complex area superintendent and the principal, the geographic exception was denied and we are currently appealing this decision.”

“This incident has caused significant emotional trauma to our family,” the father said. “All students deserve an opportunity and an education, but our daughter is being uprooted from her friends, her school and being denied a safe education.”

The parents reported that they have called the state school superintendent multiple times and have not heard back from her. They also said the school administration offered no reasonable solutions or assistance.

The parents said they personally offered three different solutions—all of which were denied by the school administration.

“The only option being provided by the school is to return my daughter to her original school and risk her safety,” the parents said. “In the interim, we officially withdrew her from school to avoid being called into Family Court. My wife has been homeschooling her since the day of the threat.”

The parents appealed the geographic exception late last week; the complex area superintendent has 10 days to reply.

Download the Hawai‘i Department of Education Administrative Rules here.

HAR 8-19-1 (C) 1-4 addresses the purpose of school discipline. It, along with the student Bill of Rights, speaks to the student’s right to have a classroom that is free from bullying and disruption.

HAR 8-19-6 addresses prohibited student conduct and lists disciplinary actions that shall be taken should a student violate the the code of conduct.

Download the Hawai‘i Department of Education Opening of the School Year Packet for School Year 2017 – 2018 here. The Hawai‘i Student Bill of Rights is on page 56.

Debra Lordan
Debra Lordan has been a writer and website editor for Pacific Media Group since 2014. She has 39-plus years of experience in the publishing industry, serving in a variety of positions—from photographer, graphic designer and communications director to writer, editor and general manager—at scientific research centers, in book publishing, at a weekly newspaper and various magazines. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado.
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