Kauai Teen Court has already received over 45 referrals this year. Most of these offenses occurred at school. At the beginning of the school year, the Hawaii Department of Education hands out to every student an abbreviated copy of Chapter 19 — the discipline policy for schools in the State of Hawaii.
This laminated two-sided document is often ignored. The original document is long and in many sections difficult to read. Chapter 19 covers all discipline scenarios in school and gets amended when necessary to include new offenses, i.e. e-cigarette violations or changes in discipline policies to listed offenses.
The Department of Education’s website states, “In order to keep our schools safe, rules have been established relating to student misconduct; these rules also govern searches of students and seizures of property.”
When students arrive on campus, they are required to behave within the law, including not only on campus while attending school, but also when participating “in a school-sponsored activity off campus and on Department of Education transportation.”
Chapter 19 uses the words “respectful, responsible, safe and ethical” when describing behaviors they require from students. When a student’s behavior goes against these expectations, the schools may take disciplinary actions. From the DOE website: “Hawaii Administrative Rules, Chapter 19, is state law. It’s important that students and parents review this information to be aware of the consequences of a Chapter 19 violation.”
Let’s review the most common offenses referred to Kauai Teen Court.
Assault and Harassment: When a student at school strikes another student, an assault charge is applied. Not only is this student committing an offense, but the student who retaliates and strikes back is also committing an offense.
If a student is filming this event on her cell phone, she is committing an offense as is any student who is standing by and encouraging the fight. When a student bullies, teases, harasses, threatens or intimidates another student, that student is committing an offense.
If the student who receives the bullying responds by retaliating physically to the bully or in-kind, that student is also committing an offense.
Theft: When a student at school takes another student’s property without his or her consent, or takes property they know has been “lost or mislaid” and that student “fails to attempt to discover and notify the owner,” that student is committing an offense.
Possession of Marijuana and Paraphernalia, Cigarettes and Alcohol: Any student at school who possesses any amount of marijuana, alcohol or cigarettes is committing an offense. That also includes possession of lighters, rolling papers, and e-cigarettes.
Truancy: “Leaving campus without consent” means going off campus for any reason “without first obtaining permission from school officials” That means once you’ve stepped on campus, you may not leave to get breakfast or lunch and may not leave until school is over and you are dismissed.
Some of the above mentioned offenses can be met with school officials requesting students to voluntarily give up the requested items.
If the student “refuses and there are reasonable grounds to believe that the student has violated the law or provisions prohibited under Chapter 19, or if there is a health or safety issue,” the student may be searched to discover and/or recover the items. School officials may examine the contents of the student’s backpack, fanny pack, purse, jacket, shoes and any other outer clothing to look for contraband. Student’s lockers on campus are subject to examination with or without cause and every student should be aware of this.
Any of the events above may result in discipline by school officials. In-school and out-of-school suspensions can be expected for many of these offenses. “Serious discipline” may result in offenses for drugs and alcohol meaning “dismissals, disciplinary transfers, crisis removals, and suspensions which exceed ten school days.”
When parents and youth come to Kauai Teen Court and complain that a particular offense occurring at one school is not treated with the same discipline policy at a different school, they admit they have not read Chapter 19. The words “shall” and “may” in the document are very important. “Shall” means the school is required to implement a stated policy and the word “may” gives school officials discretion as to the individual school’s decision on discipline.
That is why some schools suspend students for 92 days for marijuana possession and other schools suspend them for 10 days. In cases where students are suspended for more than 10 days the student or parent may file an appeal which “must be submitted in writing and received by the complex area superintendent by the close of business of the seventh school day from the date of the issued serious discipline notice.”
In other words, if your child has received a 10 plus day suspension, file an appeal immediately. According to Chapter 19, your child “shall be permitted to attend the school of the student pending the appeal unless the principal finds the continued presence of the student creates a substantial risk to self or others or to the rights of other students to pursue their education free from disruption.”
In other words, the principal can disallow the student this right if he or she feels the student’s presence creates a serious risk to the safety of the school environment.
So students and families, please note that successful behavior at school is an indicator for successful behavior in life. “Respectful, responsible, safe and ethical” are words that we should all try to live by. These are the words that frame the Department of Education’s discipline policy.
Esther Solomon is Teen Court Manager with Hale ‘Opio Kauai, Inc. For more information about Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i, go to www.haleopio.org