Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024|
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A fight involving two Keaau Middle School students broke out on a school bus heading to campus on May 5.
Video of the incident shows two girls wearing boxing gloves and sparring with one another, hitting each other in the face, while the bus continues driving.
Other students are filming the fight and jumping between seats, shouting, “Go!” “It’s round three,” and “It’s round four.”
During the 45-second video, there doesn’t appear to be any intervention by the bus driver, who remains out of view as the students continue to shout and film the fight.
“The bus driver did absolutely nothing to warn the kids to stop these actions, nor did he inform the school of what was happening,” said Melanie Bathe, the mother of one of the girls involved in the fight.
She said another student had brought the boxing gloves onto the bus.
Bathe notified the school of the incident a few days later when her daughter showed her the video. She provided the school with the name of the bus driver, the bus number, the names of the students involved, and a video of the fight.
Keaau Middle School Principal Gregg Yonemori did not respond to the Tribune-Herald’s requests for comment.
The Department of Education confirmed via email on Thursday that “appropriate student disciplinary actions have been taken where allegations were substantiated,” but said due to privacy laws, it is prohibited from sharing student disciplinary information not directly pertaining to one’s child.
The DOE added “the investigation by the school and the Student Transportation Services Branch is still ongoing.”
A Roberts Hawaii representative from Oahu declined to comment, but confirmed they are looking into the incident. Roberts provides bus services for the DOE.
Complex area Superintendent Stacey Bello said she could not comment on an active investigation, but offered the following: “All potential bullying incidents are taken very seriously and are investigated by school administration, and when necessary, law enforcement. Ensuring the well-being of our students is a continual community effort and we encourage strong partnerships between schools and families to address bullying. We want children to understand the importance of making the right choices and the potential consequences of their actions.”
After Bathe shared her story, Yonemori and a Keaau Middle School vice principal called her, but Bathe said the lack of transparency and help was concerning.
“I think it’s ridiculous that they haven’t really addressed this at all,” she said. “Not even a phone call to say, ‘Let’s try this for your daughter, we can guarantee her safety, she can come to one class maybe,’ or something.”
Bathe received one email from Yonemori stating: “Thank you for sending this. We take these things seriously and are working on it so the bus is safe. Please contact me with any other information you get from your daughter. Thank you.”
“I was not offered a Safety Plan for my child at any point in time for her to return to school,” Bathe said. “The worst part is with Roberts Hawaii, too, I don’t even know if the driver is still driving.”
In a separate incident on May 9, Bathe’s daughter got off the bus at the Hirano Store on Volcano road because students were bullying her, according to Bathe.
“I couldn’t believe the bus driver let her off the bus with no authorization to do so from a parent,” she said. “It’s been ongoing. I hear that it happens to and from school, I hear kids smoke weed on the bus, no problem.”
Bathe also cited concerns about the campus environment.
“To me, it’s the culture of the school, the adults, if they are going to continue to turn a blind eye, these kids are going to run amuck,” she said. “And if the school needs more help, then they need to be talking to the DOE, upper management, superintendents, the Board of Education, something, somebody needs to be held accountable.”
Bathe’s daughter is a 504 student, meaning she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
“She has an invisible disability,” Bathe said. “That’s why she was in this boxing match, she saw nothing wrong with it, and that’s the worst part. … She has difficulty recognizing when someone is laughing with her versus at her.”
Bathe said her daughter has been dealing with moderate depression as well, and participated in the Hiki Mai Kala 30-Day Intensive Program to help.
“Her attitude changed a lot when she went to Keaau Middle School,” Bathe said. “I pulled her out of Keaau because she was copying attitudes, and just being really defiant and difficult. She just returned to Keaau Middle School in April.”
Due to the recent events, Bathe has opted to pull her daughter out of the school again in favor of online learning.
“She wanted to go back to school because she misses her friends,” Bathe said. “She just wants to be accepted by her peers, but what do you do when your peers aren’t trustworthy?”
Bathe is hoping other parents will come forward to share experiences and bring bullying to an end.
“The DOE needs to institute an accountability program that is strict to deal with all the bullying,” Bathe said. “Do we want to wait until something tragic happens before the parents in the community step up and share their stories, and the Department of Education takes action?”
Email Grant Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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