Parents lodge abuse allegations against teacher at Big Island charter school

Parents lodge abuse allegations against teacher at Big Island charter school
David Marquis
David Marquis

PAHOA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Controversy has erupted at a public charter school on the Big Island, where parents claim the administration hasn't taken enough against action against a teacher accused of abusing her students.

The female teacher had a fourth-grade class at the Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science. The school's web site says it has 500 students from kindergarten through 12th grade in Pahoa.

"The abuse actually started like the first week of school," said Cynthia Palm, who had a son and a daughter at the school. "Basically she yelled at the class, yelling at them to shut up. Screaming all the time."

Parents claim the abuse then escalated.

"He was screamed at and intimidated," said David Marquis about his son's experience. "And then came the physical abuse, the hitting of the children on the head with books."

One woman has a nine-year-old son who wears hearing aids and is a special needs child.

"He was hit with an open hand slap to the back of his head in the area that he wears his hearing aids," said Deborah Isabel.

Those parents said they didn't really hear about the alleged abuse because their children were too scared to talk about it. However, some stories began to leak out about what was going on in the classroom.

"She took away their tables, their chairs, and made them sit on the floor. And that just started some kind of suspicion with some of the parents," said Palm, who took her children out of the academy. They are now being home schooled.

The teacher wasn't removed from the classroom until the end of January. By that time, at least one of the parents had filed a police report against the teacher. Palm said some of the parents plan to file a temporary restraining order against the teacher, whom they said showed up to at least one school event after she was removed.

The academy's governing board was confronted about the matter in a meeting Thursday night. However, board members said they couldn't discuss the matter because of a confidentiality agreement.

Hawaii News Now left phone messages for the teacher and the head of Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science, but received no response.

David Marquis was upset enough about the meeting to picket the school Friday.

"Our children are our future, and when things like this happen, I feel like they've let us down."

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