KAPAHULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lawyers have filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of current and former students at the Hawaii Center for the Deaf and the Blind in Kapahulu - the only school of its kind in the state for special needs children.
In our continuing coverage, Hawaii News Now has learned some very specific details of alleged sexual misconduct at the school that, lawyers say, may involve up to half the student body. Right now, less than 80 children attend the school.
What's listed in the complaint is not for the faint-hearted. Allegations that run the gamut from bullying and assault - to robbery, rape, gang rape, and more - over the period of at least a decade at the school.
"I have a young man who's mother tells me he was sodomized in the bathroom by another boy," says the plaintiffs' attorney, Michael Green. "I'm talking about anal intercourse and told the principal and school officials back in 2001."
The suit alleges school officials knew about a young girl getting pregnant and that, in some instances, the principal, a counselor, even the Department of Education's superintendent knew of the sexual misconduct between students but failed to advise parents or take appropriate punitive measures against the alleged perpetrators.
"I can't imagine raping someone in the bathroom and you get a time-out for that. Go stand in the corner for 15 minutes and don't do it again," says Green.
The DOE released this statement saying: "The state is reviewing the lawsuit, and we have no further comment at this time." It has put the school's principal - who's named in the lawsuit - on temporary department-directed leave and has launched an internal review, telling Hawaii News Now last week, "At the onset of the investigation, immediate steps were taken by the department to increase security and safety measures on campus to ensure the safety and well-being of students and employees."
Those we've talked to in the special needs community say it's a small, tight-knit group. Some feel the school is all they have in Hawaii so they don't often speak out. Green believes that's about to change. "Now that they know we have filed this thing, and we're coming after people, I'm hopeful that it will collapse and people will actually come forward."
The Honolulu Police Department has also confirmed its launched an on-going investigation and says several juveniles have been arrested in recent months.