LIHUE — Kauai schools are working to end herbicide use on campuses after the state Department of Education announced a ban of herbicides at public schools.
That announcement was made June 25 in a memo from DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto asking principals to remove herbicides stored at public schools.
West Hawaii Today reported the memo was sent after Kishimoto discovered RoundUp was being used at some campuses and after a community meeting about pesticide and herbicide use at Leilehuna High School.
“This memorandum serves as a reminder that under the Hawaii State Department of Education’s Integrated Pest Management Program, the use of all herbicides is banned on HIDOE campuses,” Kishimoto said in the memo. “The Integrated Pest Management Program has been providing training for school custodial staff consistent with this policy for the last five years.”
The memo is entitled “for immediate action,” and further states: “While we are exploring the possible use of organic products that may be safely and effectively used as an alternative, all employees must continue to comply with HIDOE’s policy banning herbicide use.”
The memo does not provide any allowances for schools to get up to speed with the state Board of Education policies or with the ban of herbicides. It is an immediate mandate from Kishimoto.
Questions about Kauai compliance with the ban were referred by Kauai DOE staff to the DOE state communications office, which issued the following statement:
“The Department of Education is working closely with schools to ensure full compliance with our policy banning herbicide use. Efforts are ongoing to identify recommendations for potential alternative products.”
DOE spokespeople didn’t answer requests for an update on Kauai complex’s compliance, wouldn’t divulge what herbicides were being used or what different management practices are being tested.
RoundUp’s active ingredient is glyphosate, which is not a restricted use pesticide (RUP), meaning it doesn’t have to be documented the way others have to be under Hawaii’s Act 45, passed in 2018.
Act 45 requires certified applicators of RUPs to report pesticide use every year. It also outlines 100-foot buffer zones around schools for applying RUPs during normal school hours. Those rules, however, don’t apply to many herbicides that are used traditionally in landscaping, like glyphosate.