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DOE asked to revise proposed changes to student misconduct policy

  • Brian De Lima

Proposed changes to administrative rules on student misconduct are temporarily on hold pending further revisions by the state Department of Education.

The Board of Education’s joint Finance and Infrastructure-Student Achievement Committee last week asked that the DOE revise proposed amendments to Chapter 19 of the Hawaii Administrative Rules, which cover student misconduct and discipline, after reviewing public testimony and board concerns.

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“Essentially, the committee told the department to take into consideration the public concern and to come back no later than Oct. 4 with a final proposal,” said DOE communication specialist Nanea Kalani.

According to a memo from Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, revisions to Chapter 19 define types of harassment, violence and bullying, including offenses committed against students based on gender, race or disability.

Other revisions include adding dating violence, sexual assault, sexual exploitation and stalking to the list of Class A offenses, while adding bullying, cyberbullying, discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender, race or disability, as well as retaliation, to the list of Class B offenses.

Chapter 19 separates prohibited student conduct into four classes, with Class A offenses — which include assault, burglary, fighting, possession or use of a firearm, robbery, vandalism, sexual offenses and terroristic threatening — being the most severe.

Class B offenses currently include actions like bullying and cyberbullying, disorderly conduct, forgery, harassment, theft and trespassing.

Class C offenses include use of abusive language, cutting class, insubordination, smoking or tobacco use, leaving campus without permission and truancy, while Class D offenses cover minor problem behaviors and other school rules.

Additionally, under the proposed revisions, all Class A, B, C and D offenses based on a protected class will be required to be reported for investigation, among other provisions.

BOE Vice Chairman Brian De Lima said proposed changes to the policy focused on bullying of students based on gender, race or disability.

There is an existing bullying policy in place, he said, but the board “wanted to use this opportunity to reaffirm the zero-tolerance policy” for all students. “At the same time, we wanted to emphasize bullying should be a Class A offense instead of a Class B offense.”

De Lima said other concerns focused on proposed definitions that required “persistent conduct” in regards to perpetrators of bullying.

A “one-time occurrence is too much and should rise to the attention (of) the school authority,” De Lima said.

Chapter 19 also governs school searches and seizures, reporting offenses, police interviews and arrests, and restitution for vandalism.

According to Kalani, Chapter 19 was last revised in 2009 “to establish a proactive student discipline system that emphasizes positive behavioral interventions and supports.”

The policy is being updated in part to satisfy requirements of a resolution agreement reached last December between the state DOE and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, after OCR initiated a compliance review of state policies related to bullying and harassment based on race, gender and disability in 2011, she said.

There was no complaint that initiated the review.

School leaders also are considering the repeal of Chapter 41 of Hawaii Administrative Rules and the adoption of a proposed Chapter 89, which outlines the DOE’s civil rights policy and complaint procedures for student complaints against adults.

The board also is expected to take up that item in early October, Kalani said.

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De Lima said once the board adopts a proposed policy, it will go out for public hearings throughout the state, after which the BOE can further revise the proposal or take action, he said.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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