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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 30, 2010

11 Big Island students suspended on last day of school

By Colin M. Stewart
Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Eleven Pahoa Intermediate students were suspended on the last day of school after preparations for a game of hopscotch escalated into graffiti, school officials say.

The students began by drawing hopscotch boxes on the sidewalk with chalk, Principal Dean Cevallos said, but the writing soon made its way onto various walls on two floors of the building.

"They were using those big pieces of chalk," he said. "Sometimes that chalk comes out, and sometimes it doesn't. ... I don't think they understood the gravity of what they were doing."

While no lasting damage was done, Cevallos said it was important to convey to his students that what they had done was not acceptable. They were given 10 days of suspension, to be observed once classes begin again in August.

That decision riled some parents, who said that their children have missed enough school due to Furlough Fridays.

Charla Canderoma said her eighth-grade son, Kie'nan Kama, would have to wait until Aug. 14 to begin his freshman year of high school.

"I hope we will be able to get this matter resolved and lessen their suspension, at least. I felt they should have given them a warning or in-school detention," she said.

Reached by phone Thursday evening, Cevallos said he would be amenable to allowing the students to come during the summer to perform campus beautification projects.

"The most important thing to me is to have these kids back in school. If they elect to do so, they could come in a couple hours a day to work off their suspension," he said.

Cevallos said the students spent about an hour Tuesday cleaning the walls and walkway of their handiwork.

"I think they thought this was funny, and that they might get away with it, since it was the last day of school," he said. "I don't think they understood. But as I explained to one student, 'If I came to your dad's house, and I wrote all over your dad's walls, how do you think he would feel about it?'"