HONOLULU — The Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) will solicit public feedback on updates the Department is proposing to strengthen its student misconduct and discipline code known as Chapter 19. The Hawaii State Board of Education unanimously voted today to send the revisions out for a public hearing.
“The Department is committed to providing equal access for all children to a quality public education within a positive learning environment. We want to ensure our students feel safe and are ready to learn in a system grounded in respect, aloha and community,” said Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto.
Chapter 19, which is part of Hawaii Administrative Rules, was last revised in 2009 to establish a proactive student discipline system that emphasizes positive behavioral interventions and supports.
Protected classes, as defined in the proposed revisions, include race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, national origin, ancestry, disability, physical appearance and characteristics, and socio-economic status.
One of the revisions would elevate the student offenses of bullying/harassment and cyberbullying for intermediate and high school students to a Class A offense — the most serious category of prohibited conduct that also includes assault, fighting and possession or use of dangerous weapons.
Bullying, harassment and cyberbullying currently are Class B offenses for all students. It would remain a lower-level offense for students in kindergarten to 6th grade as they are still learning socially appropriate behaviors.
The definition of bullying would be combined with harassment and revised to mean any student-to-student written, verbal, graphic or physical act that hurts, harms or humiliates another student physically or emotionally, and is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive or creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment for the other student.
The rules generally do not prescribe specific consequences when a student commits certain offenses. School administrators take five factors into account when determining appropriate disciplinary action: intention, nature and severity, impact on others, age of student and prior misbehavior.
Under Chapter 19, any school employee who witnesses a Class A or Class B offense, or who has reasonable cause to believe an offense has been committed or will be committed, is required to promptly report the incident to the school principal, who must conduct an investigation.
The rules are being updated in part to satisfy requirements of a resolution agreement reached late last year between HIDOE and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The federal department in 2011 initiated a compliance review of HIDOE’s policies related to bullying and harassment based on race, sex and disability. There was no complaint that initiated the review.
The Department also is proposing to repeal Hawaii Administrative Rules Chapter 41 and replace it with a new section titled Chapter 89 Civil Rights Policy and Complaint Procedures for Student(s) Complaints against Adult(s).