Kamehameha Schools obligated to report alleged sex assault to police, Hawaii court official says
By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer
Kamehameha Schools was required under state law to call police immediately after a 12-year-old girl reported being sexually assaulted repeatedly by two classmates over a three-day period that ended Monday, a prominent Family Court attorney said.
Francis "Frank" O'Brien, who specializes in child protection matters before the court, said Hawai'i law clearly states that employees or officers of a school must notify the state Department of Human Services or the police department immediately when a student reports being sexually assaulted.
The reporting requirement applies to both public and private schools, O'Brien said.
Ann Botticelli, vice president for community relations and communications for the school, said Wednesday that school officials did not contact police after the girl reported the incident. The school relies on parents to file criminal complaints on behalf of their children, Botticelli said at the time.
Yesterday Botticelli gave what she called a fuller explanation of the process in an e-mail to The Advertiser:
"When alleged student misconduct is reported at Kamehameha Schools, our first priority is to ensure the safety and emotional security of the student. We also begin an immediate investigation of the allegation, and as soon as we have reason to believe a serious incident occurred, we notify the students' parents, and we assist and support the parents if they decide to report the incident to the police."
Two 12-year-old boys who attend the school were arrested after the girl talked to police on Monday.
The boys were arrested on six counts of first-degree sexual assault, five counts of second-degree sexual assault, three counts of kidnapping and one count of burglary.
Police said yesterday that the kidnapping count was not included in a petition filed with the Family Court to take the matter up. Officials would not say why the kidnapping counts were not included in the petition.
Botticelli said yesterday the school stands by its decision not to call police about the incident.
"If there were a mandatory reporting requirement for this situation, we would have followed it," Botticelli said in an e-mail response to questions from The Advertiser.
O'Brien said the reporting requirement has been on state law books for more than 25 years.
"It strains the credibility of the school to say it does not believe it was required to report the matter," O'Brien said.
The law also provides immunity to people who file "good faith" reports of suspected child abuse cases, including allegations of sexual assault, O'Brien said.
"If a child came to school badly beaten with obvious bruises, then, of course, we would expect the school to report the matter," O'Brien said.
The same thing should hold true if a child reports being sexually assaulted, he said.
Failure to comply with the reporting requirement is a petty misdemeanor.
State schools superintendent Patricia Hamamoto said the reporting requirement is spelled out in Chapter 19 of the Department of Education's administrative rules, which have the effect of law.
"If we suspect something is criminal, we shall report it to the police," Hamamoto said. "We shall inform the police. It means mandatory reporting. For the department, if anyone knows of any potentially criminal activity, there must be a mandatory report to police."
If she is on campus and a student reports he got beat up, "I have to pick up the phone and call the police, call the parents," Hamamoto said.Advertiser education writer Loren Moreno contributed to this report. Reach David Waite at 525-7412.