Two employees removed from blind and deaf school after abuse lawsuit

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Two employees at the Hawaii School for the Deaf and the Blind have been removed from their positions following allegations of years of sexual assault and other misconduct by students against other students at the school.

The civil lawsuit filed in August 2011 against the state for allowing criminal wrongdoing by students at the school has gone to mediation, a source said.

That means most of the new details of this case will never be disclosed in a court room. By participating in mediation, the state is looking to pay the families of victimized students money settle the case, sources said.

Located in Kapahulu, the school is made up of about 80 students from Oahu as well as those from the neighbor islands, who live at the school as boarders.

A class-action lawsuit filed in August claimed for more than ten years the school has been terrorized by some of its students who called themselves "the ringleaders."

The lawsuit said older students routinely attacked younger and smaller students at the school, assaulting, robbing, bullying and even raping and gang raping them on a regular basis.

The lawsuit said the school's administrator was informed in 2007 that some boys at the school were raping other boys on school grounds, but she failed to take action to stop the activity.

A source familiar with the case says the school's administrator -- a 23-year DOE employee -- has been removed from her position and is on department-directed leave.

The lawsuit also accused a male counselor at the school of engaging in inappropriate and questionable activities with male students, including having them stay with him overnight at his home off campus.

Sources said that counselor -- who was a contractor and not a DOE employee -- has been terminated.

One source said school officials made a cosmetic change to the campus that didn't get to the root of the problem, according to one source.  In one case, when administrators found out that students were using a set of bushes to meet to have sex, they had the bushes removed.

Some former students have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct at the school stretching back to the 1970s, a source said.

In a separate criminal case, police arrested several juveniles last year.  But since they're minors, their cases were heard in secret family court proceedings, and the outcomes of their cases will never be released.

A state DOE spokeswoman declined comment on the case, as did attorney Michael Green, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of at least 35 former students of the school who he claimed were victims of wrongdoing by other students.

Members of the deaf and blind community said students allowed this kind of behavior to continue for years because they were scared of being ostracized by their peers and were frightened by school officials who claimed their school would close if the allegations were made public.

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