Big Island dad blasts DOE's handling of civil rights violations

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Big Island father is backing up a federal report that says Hawaii public schools are not responding well to bullying and harassment.

Joshua Franklin Alameda is suing the state Department of Education, saying his kids were beaten, harassed and discriminated against by fellow students because he is gay. His suit says the school system did little to protect his children from the harassment.

"There were physical assaults, yes, my son came home with a black eye because a kid shoved his face into a pole," he said.

A report by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights found that 20,000 student claimed they were bullied on campus.

But the feds said that nearly half didn't report the incidents for fear of retaliation or because they didn't think it would help.

The DOE declined comment on Alameda's lawsuit because it's pending. But on Monday, school Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said the federal report is based on old data.

"There's been significant work we've been doing from our compliance office, our civil rights compliance office, very proactively," she said.

But Alameda said the testimony of Big Island teachers and administrators in his case contradict that point.

One of the kids' teachers admitted in a deposition there were no anti-bullying training programs for teachers.

That same teacher testified that she didn't even know what the acronym LGBT stood for.

Another administrator was asked this question by Alameda's attorney:

"She was asked, is a child protected under Title IX if they're just being perceived as gay, her response was absolutely not. Her response was that they would have to ask the child if they were gay," Alameda said.

"What if a kid is not African American but they're being called the N-word, would they be protected? She said 'No.'"

Attorney Eric Seitz, who has handled a number of harassment suits against the DOE, said the department is doing little to address civil rights violations of students.

"They always basically, deny, deny, deny, defend. They uphold physical coercion and other things that happen to kids in a way that's disgraceful," he said.

"My experience is the DOE is dishonest, they never accept responsibility."

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.