East Hawaii News

Transgender Community Delivers Petition to BOE

May 3, 2016, 3:37 PM HST
* Updated May 4, 8:56 AM
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Hawai'i Department of Education headquarters in Honolulu. Google Street View.

Hawai’i Department of Education headquarters in Honolulu. Google Street View.

Members of the transgender community, including prominent transgender leaders, delivered a petition with thousands of signatures to the steps of the Hawai’i State Department of Education in Honolulu on Tuesday afternoon.

The petition addresses the Hawai’i State Board of Education, calling on the DOE to respect and protect transgender students throughout the state.

Fashion designer Ari South, soccer and film star Jaiyah Saelua, and teacher and cultural practitioner Hina Wong-Kalu joined with transgender students and their families, along with community supporters, to express the need for a stronger show of support from the DOE in establishing guidelines and training to ensure students across the gender spectrum are not only respected in their schools, but protected.

“This is so important for our keiki that I’m going to the DOE instead of the White House this week,” said Wong-Kalu.

Wong-Kalu was selected recently to receive an Asian American-Pacific Island Champion of Challenge Award in Washington, D.C. this week.


Schools have been advised by the United States Department of Education that failure to treat students consistent with their gender identity leave them open to legal prosecution under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.


Organizers of the petition delivery say a growing number of stories about transgender students facing discrimination in Hawaiʻi public schools underscore the need for fair and consistent treatment district-wide.

The petition requests the DOE to establish a clear set of guidelines, consistent with its existing anti-discrimination policy.  The group further urges the department to study the policies and best practices, such as those presented in the California and GLSEN transgender model district policies. These policies have been adopted by school districts across the country without any incidents of confusion, harassment, or inappropriate behavior.

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