KAILUA (HawaiiNewsNow) – Is it a case of truancy or a violation of students' rights? The parents of a Kalaheo high school teenager claim police in Kailua were abusive and excessive when officers arrested their daughter Tuesday morning, along with two of her friends. Police paint a slightly different picture.
It started a block away from Kalaheo high school - shortly after eight o'clock in the morning. The first school bell had already rung, and the three 16 year old students say they were rushing to get to class.
That's when several plain-clothes police officers yelled out to the girls that were late for school. Not knowing who they were, one of the teens answered back. Police told them they had attitude.
"They're like, 'You're being arrested for truancy,' and I was like, 'What?' and they were just like, 'Yeah, you need to sit down on the curb right now or we're going to throw you to the curb'," says junior Lindsey Aoki-Thompson.
They say officers put them in a squad car and drove them to the Kailua police station. Once there, a female officer searched them.
Kalaheo junior Talia Stenson said she was scared and crying. "They didn't make any sense to me, and they wouldn't explain what was going on or anything."
The Honolulu police department confirmed to Hawaii News Now that the three were arrested for truancy. Without going into detail because they're juveniles, HPD says officers sat the girls on the sidewalk, as standard procedure, got their information, then took them in. They say all plain-clothes officers wear badges around their necks and claim the body searches at the station were done "for safety reasons".
Truancy around Kalaheo high school has been an on-going problem. Police say the neighbors and a nearby church have made numerous complaints about drugs, students skipping class, and loitering before, during, and after school. But these girls have no prior police record and no history of problems.
Lindsey's mother, Donna Krenz, says, "They were really excessive. They were verbally abusive. I was furious. My heart was broken for these girls. I felt like they'd been violated. Our children are supposed to feel safe. I think they really made our kids feel like they can't rely on our police here."
HPD says the families were told they can file a complaint with the department's professional standards office, if they feel the girls' rights were violated. The parents tell Hawaii News Now they plan to do just that.