Nobody likes a bully.
In 2014, a survey for “Equality Hawaii Foundation” by Qmark Research was released that showed out of 442 people, 57 percent of them said that they were impacted by bullying and another 37 percent that they were personally bullied.
On Kauai, state Department of Education Complex-Area Superintendent Bill Arakaki has been assertive in his efforts to reduce bullying on the island over the past few years, keeping schools and staff accountable while providing support.
“As far as Kauai, we’ve asked all our schools over the past few years what they do to help and support anti-bullying and build relationships,” Arakaki told The Garden Island.
Some schools, like Kapaa High School, have tried to prevent bullying from starting. Principal Daniel Hamada believes the best defense against bullying among his student body is a good offense.
“I try to be strategic; you want to plan ahead. You don’t want to have something happen and then react to it,” Hamada said. “What we do at Kapaa High School is from the moment the kids walk in as freshmen, we have a Transitions to High School course that’s mandatory for all freshmen. It’s about making good decisions, treating each other (well), working with each other and study skills.”
While bullying does exist on his campus, Hamada said his students work together and address problems with counselors and peer-mediation groups which, more often than not, prevents these conflicts from arising in the first place.
Kauai High School recently started a peer-mediation group, similar to the one at Kapaa High. There are committees like Mauka to Makai, Bully Free Kauai that try to end bullying in public schools.
“I’ve never left a venue where kids haven’t come up to me and were open to discuss things. They take it very seriously,” said Pam Ellison, a commander with the Hawaii National Guard and a member of Mauka to Makai, Bully Free Kauai.
Kauai High did not respond for comment by press time.
“Right now, I’m gonna knock on wood. On a scale of one to five, I would say bullying is low, maybe a one or a two,” Hamada said. “Every week, all the teachers get together and bring up things and names that pop up. Our counselors start with a freshmen class and follow them through graduation. We try not to let the kids fall between the cracks. We don’t meet every four weeks or quarterly, we meet every week. We deal with it right away.”
If a situation becomes too extreme for students to deal with in peer-mediation groups and if the school needs further assistance, Hamada has the full support of the DOE to bring in outside help.
“We can go to Mr. Arakaki’s staff and ask them for support and they can have a social worker come down to work one-on-one or with small groups,” Hamada said.
Moving forward, Arakaki hopes to see a continued effort to combat bullying in Kauai schools until eventually, students can go to school in peace without fear of judgment or harassment from their peers.
“This whole thing about bullying, it’s such an emotional thing,” Arakaki said. “It’s really all about having a positive self-esteem and how we treat each other. (Putting a stop to bullying) is all about the aloha spirit.”