An 8-year-old special education
student was arrested for terroristic threatening at a Kalihi school Tuesday, according
to the Honolulu Police Department.
Police say the elementary school special education student is accused of
verbally threatening a 22-year-old male teacher.
The principal confirmed
the incident happened at Princess Victoria Ka'iulani Elementary School on
Police say no one was hurt
and the child has been released pending an investigation.
What isn't clear is the
nature of the threat, or whether weapons were involved, though the police
paperwork does not mention any.
Department of Education
officials will not confirm the report.
Lou Erteschik, the
Executive Director of Hawai'i Disability Rights Center, which advocates for
people with disabilities, was saddened but not surprised to hear about the
"There is a national
problem that's growing with an over-policing of schools in the wake of school
violence. There are a lot of situations
that used to be handled by the school administrators that really still could. Lots of offenses are being blown out of proportion
and leading to arrests," explained Erteschik, who prefaced his
statement by saying he doesn't know exactly what happened in this situation, but
finds it hard to believe the threat was real.
"The school should really try to
deal with this. It's a bit of a cop out
in a way to try to then just pass it off to police and sometimes what happens,
I think, is they're so afraid of liability – everybody's so nervous about
getting sued for not taking action – when arguably this is something that could
be handled by the school," said Erteschik,
DOE officials say there is
a very specific protocol in place for calling the police. They say typically students are first sent to
the principal's office. Police are only
called if the level of the threat or the perceived danger is so serious, it
cannot be handled by school administration.
Chapter 19 policy
dictates: "Police shall be directed to the principal or designee. Whenever
possible the student shall be sent to the principal's office for the police
officer to effect the pending arrest. Upon police arrival to arrest a student,
the principal or designee shall make a good faith effort to inform the parent."
The DOE does not keep
record of how many times police are called to their campuses.
Ivalee Sinclair is the
Chair of the Special Education Advisory Council for the DOE, which is a
mandated body that advises
the department on the unmet needs of students with special needs. Sinclair admits this
is a very unusual situation given how young the child is and given the support
system that is supposed to be in place for special education students.
"It's a very traumatic
experience for everyone and there should be pieces in place to prevent that. If the police were called, there should have
been someone who intervened to say, ‘Ok, this is a Special Ed youngster. Here's
the crisis plan. Here's what we do. Thank you for coming,'"explained Sinclair.
Sinclair says budget cuts
and lack of training has created an environment where inexperienced or improperly
trained teachers wind up with special education students.
"One of my major concerns is that
people be supported when they're in the classroom, so that the kids are
supported, so that the kids can learn. Special
Education is very complex and it's very costly and sometimes, you know, we do
the best we can – but it isn't always that we have the resources that we need,"
Experts say it's highly
unusual the student returned to school today, and more likely, has been suspended
for a few days while an investigation takes place.