Always Investigating’s recent investigation revealed several public school campuses are dealing almost daily with violence among students, and we’ve heard from a lot of folks about how that violence is affecting neighborhoods, leaving residents at their wits’ end.
Waianae resident Richard Drake Jones and his wife have their life savings in their Leeward coast condominium with a lovely park right outside his window. Too bad it doubles as something area kids call “The Ring,” a place the rough and tumble like to fight.
“These kids know this is private property, yet they still come over here,” Jones said.
It’s right across the street from Waianae High School and nearby Waianae Intermediate, two of the schools with some of the worst on-campus violence and drug numbers, Always Investigating found.
That’s not even including what happens off campus. Recent brawls that escalated between Waianae and Kapolei students spilled over there, too.
“There must have been about a hundred kids,” Jones said. “Because it’s a cul de sac, if there’s an emergency and police or fire have to get down here, they can’t get down here because they’re fighting. What’s even worse is when some of these kids get into these fights, the parents jump in.”
“It’s quite rampant in areas like Uluwehi and other areas close to the schools,” said state Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, D, Waianae. “Students knowing they might get in trouble if they fight on campus, they take the fights off campus, and it’s become really, really difficult for all the neighborhoods to cope.”
Residents and condo management where Jones lives were able to get some police intervention, partly by recently making it easier and more clear for HPD to go ahead and issue trespassing tickets on the private property, and to work with the school on red-flag days.
“They are notifying police when they get word that there is going to be a fight,” Jones said. “The first thing they do is come over here and wait for them.”
That worked to deter what could have been a recent fight at “The Ring.”
“Fifty of them started walking up the street. They were going to start fighting here, and when they saw the two cop cars, they turned around and walked the other way,” Jones said.
Meanwhile in the time since our investigation, the Department of Education is upping resources at some of their most violent campuses.
“It’s good that the attention was brought to this disturbing problem,” Shimabukuro said, “because I think now many are putting their heads together to try to figure out how we can solve it.”
The Waianae complex, the North-Central Oahu complex, and the Big Island complex that includes Pahoa are splitting a $13 million intervention and school-transformation grant, and it also covers some in-home services.
Always Investigating asked, when will that money and those resources really take root down to the family level?
“Maybe this year, we’ll start to see that we can hire some more mental health professionals,” Shimabukuro said, “have more training for the students, and maybe even engage the families of some of these students and teach more appropriate behaviors when it comes to discouraging violence.”
According to the DOE, at Waianae they are hiring two behavioral health specialists with the grant money. This semester at Pahoa, which started the school year with fight after fight, two security officers who were out on leave are back. They’ve also filled counseling positions and have four more tutors, and are still hiring the grant-covered behavior specialists.
Schools like Waianae High School are increasing the number of classroom and extracurricular options for students. The band is back, sports are an outlet and opportunity, and programs like digital media and even organic farming experiences are making a big difference in the school climate.
“Give youth an outlet and direction to help them, so they feel like there’s somewhere to go after high school,” Shimabukuro said, “to behave well and stay in school so you can get into these excellent programs.”
All things neighbors hope will keep the fights out of their backyard.
“The school has got to step up and do something because if they don’t, this is going to continue and it’s just a matter of time until one of these kids pulls a knife or a gun,” Jones said.
“There has been a decrease in fights and disruptions on the Waianae HS campus in the last few years,” said DOE spokesperson Donalyn Dela Cruz. “Regarding the fights off campus, the school is working with the police when asked to identify students involved in the fights, but are unable to take direct action unless it is determined that the safety of these and other students is at risk. In those cases, they call the students in to counsel them and mediate in some cases to mitigate the chances of fights on the school campus.”