HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After a flawed investigation into allegations of abuse at Kipapa Elementary School in Mililani, advocates for the disabled are convinced school leaders attempted a cover-up.
Those charges come after a recent ruling by Administrative Law Judge Haunani Alm found that the school principal Corrine Yogi dismissed allegations of physical and emotional abuse after conducting just a cursory investigation.
Alm went also said that Yogi brought in members from her church into the classroom to pray about the matter so the controversy would go away.
"(Yogi) said there was evil in the classroom and that's why (she) found it necessary to bring her church into the classroom to somewhat pray about the matter to cleanse the environment," said attorney Eric Seitz, who is suing the DOE on behalf of three of the children and has taken Yogi's deposition.
"That's simply outrageous."
Among the allegations of abuse: An educational aide held down one autistic girl by her neck for several minutes while another was force fed her food and even forced to eat food she threw up.
Another child was allegedly tied down to her chair with a scarf and forced to watch television for hours after she acted out while an aide placed a large clamp on the nose of another autistic child.
Alm concluded that widespread abuse has occurred in the classroom.
"This was a horrible classroom where things like this were happening on a regular basis," Seitz said.
As we first reported, Alm found that DOE officials failed to interview the whistleblowers who shot the video of the girls being held down and being force fed and used her phone to record screams by one student when left alone with a staffer.
She said investigators only interviewed the alleged perpetrators, who denied the allegations. Alm also said testimony by the aide and teacher was riddled with inconsistencies and that the two lacked credibility.
"You don't need to be Sherlock Holmes or a Police Academy graduate to figure out that you don't just ask the perpetrators if they did it," said Louis Erteschik, executive director of the Hawaii Disability Rights Center.
Seitz said he believes that attorneys from the state and DOE officials coached some of the alleged perpetrators to lie about the abuses.
"In my belief, they simply suborned perjury and instituted a massive cover up, which they are still engaging in," he said.
DOE officials concede that praying the classroom is an inadequate when addressing allegations of abuse but they say the abuses never happened at Kipapa Elementary.
Seitz said no disciplinary action was taken against the classroom teacher and aide.
Alm's finding will likely become a key exhibit the lawsuits against the DOE filed by the children's families. Trial is schedule for later this year.