HSTA seeks legal action to stop public school students from in-person classes

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) is taking legal action to stop public school students from returning to campuses on Monday. HSTA president Corey Rosenlee said the Department of Education’s current plan requiring students to report in-person the first week of school is reckless and unsafe.

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“The DOE is being reckless and putting our students, our teachers and our community at risk,” said Rosenlee.

The DOE is planning to conduct school via distance learning starting the second week of school. But over the first four days, many students will be reporting to campus for face-to-face meetings at staggered times.

There are also concerns about in-person classes for students with special needs.

In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in all face-to-face classes, the union is taking legal action.

“I have notified the attorney general’s office that I intend to file a lawsuit against the state of Hawaii to stop students from going to school on Monday,” said attorney Eric Seitz.

“I cannot conceive of any circumstance now where any policy maker or decision maker would want to put children, teachers, staff members in schools in an unsafe situation. And it is beyond debate that what’s being proposed for next week is unsafe.”

Seitz said he will seek an injunction by the court, which would prevent students from going to campus.

Rosenlee said the union is also taking additional action against the state and the DOE that will take much longer to resolve.

“The HSTA will take two legal actions against the state by filing a prohibitive practice complaint with the Hawaii labor relations board and a class grievance against the state of Hawaii and the Department of education.”

State Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said she’s flabbergasted. “I’m a bit concerned. I am getting this threat for legal action a day and a half before we have kids coming to campus. It is opportunistic timing and it is disruptive.”

She said the DOE will not be changing their plan.

“We have just spent nine days training teachers very intimately and other staff members to get ready for students to return and now that students are about to return there’s this kind of sticking out your leg and tripping up the school district around getting ready for kids and I think it’s unacceptable.”

Kishimoto explained that only students who need help with distance learning are coming to campus. Those who already know how it works will begin their online classes the following Monday.

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