What parents can do to address school bullying

After KHON2 reported the story of an eight-year-old girl who was punched repeatedly by another student at Kamaile Academy, hundreds of parents contacted us through social media saying they went through a similar problem.

All the messages shared a common thread. They felt powerless and weren’t getting any help.

So we found out what parents can do to make sure their concerns are being addressed. Turns out, reporting the problem to the school isn’t always enough.

Kamaile Academy in Makaha is a charter school, so if parents aren’t happy with the way the school is handling the problem, they can take it up with the governing board.

If nothing happens there, there is the Charter School Commission, but executive director Tom Hutton said most issues are handled by the governing board.

“We have a lot of tools at our disposal if it rises to the level where the commission’s role may be something improper happened here or something illegal or something like that,” he said.

The Dept. of Education also addresses bullying on its website. It tells parents to take a more active role in talking to their children about accepting adversity and not resorting to name calling. It also tells them not to encourage the children to retaliate by hitting back.

But some say parents can accomplish a lot on their own by banding together and organizing a meeting with school officials.

“If you put together a group of people who are fairly strong, fairly committed, fairly outspoken and probably very angry about what’s happening to their kids in their schools,” said attorney Eric Seitz.

Seitz has gone up against the Dept. of Education in class action lawsuits though ironically he doesn’t recommend taking this issue to court.

As a parent, Seitz said he went through a similar problem with his son and forced a meeting to address bullying.

“We did have to convince (school officials) and they were reluctant. Basically, we told them look, if you don’t do this, we’re going to come in on our own,” he said.

Experts were brought in to help and he said the problem stopped. He said parents and students were empowered, and the teachers also got better at dealing with bullying.

A poll will be released Thursday by Equality Hawaii Foundation that says bullying in Hawaii schools remains a significant problem.

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