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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, February 24, 2005

BOE trying to avoid 'hysteria'

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Education officials yesterday said they will continue to evaluate school emergency plans to ensure safe and comfortable learning environments following recent brawls at a handful of public schools. But officials also cautioned that they don't want to overreact and create policies that could turn schools into high-security institutions.

State schools Deputy Superintendent Clayton Fujie provided an update on school safety to the Board of Education's committee on support services. He was asked to speak after highly publicized fights and altercations with police at four O'ahu high schools.

Fujie said 24 students were disciplined for their role in the incidents in late January and earlier this month. He said some of the incidents began off campus or during non-school hours, but escalated on campus.

Fujie said the incidents did not represent an increase in school violence.

"We've always had incidences on our campuses; it just so happened these were publicized and they happened in a sequence," Fujie said.

Fujie said his office has determined that a key problem in all of the incidents was the proliferation of cell phones on campuses that were used by students to spread rumors and other disinformation. He suggested that the board consider a policy on cell phone use during school hours.

But BOE member Karen Knudsen said the board should "keep things in perspective rather than hysteria taking root." She said Hawai'i continues to have some of the safest schools in the country and instituting policies such as a ban on cell phones would be an overreaction.

"Our first reaction would be to ban all cell phones. But they do save lives. Think Columbine," Knudsen said. "We can provide guidelines, but I would be the last person ever to support not having any cell phones."

BOE student member Troy Hashimoto, a senior at King Kekaulike High on Maui, blamed the media for giving the recent incidents more publicity than they deserved.