Lawmaker sues state, governor over school’s ‘extreme’ overcrowding

Local News

A state lawmaker is suing the governor and the Department of Education.

Rep. Bob McDermott, R, Ewa Beach, Iroquois Point, says it’s what he had to do to fix what he calls “emergencies” at an Ewa school.

McDermott filed a class action lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of his children and the students of Campbell High School.

He claims the defendants — Gov. David Ige, DOE superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, and Board of Education chairman Lance Mizumoto — are failing to provide appropriate school facilities for students.

McDermott says Campbell is grossly overcrowded and things must change now to make a better learning environment for the students.

He admits filing a lawsuit against the state is extreme, but insists it needed to be done because Campbell’s overcrowded issue is unfair to the students.

Photos shared by the representative show students eating their lunch on the ground or on the go. Two of his kids attend Campbell High.

“I said, ‘Where do you eat?’ ‘Ah, I don’t eat, Dad.’ ‘Why?’ ‘It’s a hassle.’ ‘So what do you do?’ ‘I stay in the classroom,'” McDermott said.

It’s one of many reasons he filed the lawsuit.

One area the lawsuit focuses on is improved cafeteria capacity. McDermott says Campbell’s cafeteria only holds 890 students, but there are about 3,200 attending.

McDermott says all of them have the same 30-minute break for lunch, which leads to long lines for food and few places to sit.

Eleanor Rolak has three grandchildren who attend Campbell.

“To know of them being in school and might not be able to get lunch because of the overcrowding, that upsets me,” she said.

McDermott also wants the court to order the state to fully fund a proposed $35 million additional building for Campbell.

The DOE budgeted $12 million this school year for planning and infrastructure work, and purchased eight portables that will become 15 air-conditioned classrooms.

“We’re hoping to get them off their duff and start taking some action and start taking this seriously. They’ll have to go in front of a judge and explain why they haven’t addressed these things,” McDermott said.

We reached out to Gov. Ige’s office and was told it hasn’t been served with the complaint, but will review it when received.

The DOE says “while we haven’t been served with the lawsuit yet, in anticipation of receiving it we are precluded from commenting due to the pending litigation.”

Rep. Matt LoPresti, D, Ewa Beach, Ewa Villages, agrees that Campbell needs help, but thinks lawmakers can tackle the problems.

“I don’t think anybody disagrees we need these things for the schools. That’s what I’m there fighting for and trying to do the work,” LoPresti said.

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