HONOLULU (KHON2) — Graduating often comes with being draped with lei in Hawaii, but parents are voicing their concerns after two public schools informed them that lei giving will not be allowed at graduation this year.

Baldwin and Leilehua High Schools sent out letters to parents, stating no lei giving will be allowed before, during or after graduation. Graduates and parents must also immediately leave campus after the ceremony is done. Baldwin is asking families to host their own lei giving at home instead.

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“We were floored,” said Mahina Chillingworth, a parent of a Leilehua High School senior. “We couldn’t believe that they would be that drastic. They meaning, Leilehua High School, to go that far and take away a local tradition from the students.”

Read the letter sent to Leilehua High School parents below:

Read the letter sent to Baldwin High School parents below:

KHON2 reached out multiple times to the Department of Education (DOE), Baldwin and Leilehua High Schools to find out the reasoning behind the decision.

DOE responded late Monday afternoon with the following statement:

“Safety continues to be a priority for the Department as schools work through the logistics and details for upcoming graduation ceremonies. The Department’s latest guidance on safety protocols for commencement ceremonies, issued April 1, does not specifically prohibit lei giving. The Department’s guidance was designed to provide schools with flexibility in determining event-specific details that maintain the health and safety of all attendees. We encourage families to be patient through this process as we all value the importance of celebrating this momentous occasion with family and friends. Graduations are still about a month away. The Department will continue to monitor the latest data and will issue updated guidance as appropriate.” 


Meanwhile, the DOE has outlined its own graduation protocol, but it does not mention no lei allowed. DOE says each school will be sending out its own logistical details to parents.

“It does make it very confusing knowing that we all fall under the DOE, but there’s different rules in different areas, which is clearly unfair,” said Rodeny Sanchez, a Leilehua High School parent.

Off-campus venues are allowing lei giving like at Aloha Stadium where Aiea High School will hold its ceremony in the parking lot. The Stand Sheriff Center is also allowing lei, but says it’s up to individual schools.

With about a month to go, parents are hoping for a compromise before graduation day.

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“This is their graduation, this is a once in a lifetime, and it’s just a bummer. It’s just a really big bummer,” said Chillingworth.