Security changes at school campus after $5.75M sex abuse settlement

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It’s been in the works for years and made official on Monday by a federal judge.

A settlement has been approved between the state and victim’s of sex assault at the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind.

It’s a $5.75 million settlement, with $3.75 million going to the victims.

The many attorneys who worked on the case will get $1 million in fees.

One million dollars has been budgeted to cover administrative costs in doling out the money and care for the victims, but what about the school and it’s administrators moving forward?

“The last piece of this is for the DOE to try and do its part to prevent these things from recurring. And I don’t have a lot of confidence in that part to be candid with you,” attorney for the plaintiffs Eric Seitz said.

The DOE says it has stepped up security measures, but it’s not clear when some of the changes will actually happen.

KHON2 first reported the abuse in 2011. Dozens of students at the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind were allegedly sexually assaulted by other classmates going as far back as 2001.

The settlement requires the DOE to install cameras in school buses where some of the assaults allegedly took place.

The DOE says all buses will have cameras, but could not say when. All bus drivers will also be trained in sign language, but again, a spokeswoman could not say when.

“The DOE has been slow in taking responsibility, and even slower in acknowledging that they need to do to prevent these types of events from recurring,” Seitz said.

“I believe the DOE will step up and make the necessary changes to policy and procedure so that this doesn’t happen again,” State Attorney General David Louie said.

The DOE says it has installed cameras and improved lighting on campus, as well as trimmed the bushes in areas where students can hide, which is also part of the settlement. It has also added more supervision at night at the dorms.

“They were very concerned about making sure that the cameras worked, that cameras were available and very concerned that bushes were trimmed and that locks were placed on doors, so that physically the school would be safe and secure,” Louie said.

The lawsuit also claims that the principal and the counselor knew about the assaults and did not report them. They are no longer with the school. Also, that parents were afraid to report the incidents.

“Because this is the only real school we have for children with this disability, that there were parents that were afraid to come forward because out of fear they would close the school down,” attorney for the plaintiffs Michael Green said.

The state says there is more awareness now among staff and parents.

“You be proactive, you bring it forward and try to figure out what’s going on, and you take actions to prevent harm to the students and make sure that the students are safe,” Louie said.

KHON2 will keep following up with the DOE to find out when all of the changes will happen.

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