In our collective work to deliver excellent and equitable education to Hawai‘i’s keiki, there’s nothing more important or impactful than creating safe, nurturing learning environments. That foundation, when it’s not there, impedes everything else we do.
Ending bullying is a cornerstone of that foundation. The Board of Education, on Oct. 4, approved for public review our updates to the student misconduct and discipline code known as Chapter 19. Among the key changes: elevating bullying and cyberbullying at the secondary levels to a Class A offense, the most serious category. We will be reviewing the proposed changes at community engagement sessions through December.
Bullying is a problem that transcends the borders of our campuses and offices; it’s much bigger than us, and everyone has a role in preventing it. As a school system responsible for the care and safety of children, we have to approach it from two standpoints: process and culture.
In addition to fortifying Chapter 19 and conducting public outreach, we are in the final stages of the proposal cycle for an anti-bullying app that will allow safe and secure reporting of incidents. Once final contracting is finished, we can begin initial training in November for a rollout to middle schools in January and high schools in Fall 2019. This will give students an additional means of reporting that they’re more comfortable with, which strengthens our process. More details to come.
I’ve seen firsthand the extraordinary approaches to inclusive cultures at our schools, many of them led by students. One that comes to mind is The Friends Program at Farrington High that in ways large and small removes the barriers that separate students with and without special needs. They just celebrated a wonderful milestone with the selection of their homecoming queen, Jasmin Cozo. These affirmative initiatives go a long way toward making all students feel they belong.
We invite everyone to participate in Unity Day on Wednesday, October 24. Wear orange as a simple statement of support for communities of kindness, acceptance and aloha, and to show solidarity during National Bullying Prevention Month. We’ve created a flyer (pictured) that you can download and post around your school, home or office, add to your social media (#UnityDay2018), or all of the above. We are also sending orange wrist bands to all schools for distribution to staff and students so everyone can wear the message: Unite for Kindness, Acceptance and Aloha!
I hope to see this go beyond our schools and offices to all of our families and friends across the Islands. Let’s remind everyone, and ourselves, that aloha lives here.