Nanakuli Students Rally Around an Openly-Gay Teacher

Aaron Barrozo
Aaron Barrozo
Levi Chang
Levi Chang
Kiana Merritt
Kiana Merritt

NANAKULI (KHNL) -- Some Nanakuli High and Intermediate School students are rallying around a teacher. They say he is the target of discrimination, and the school administration is turning a blind eye.

At the center of this controversy is Dr. Kenneth Kauffman, an openly-gay science teacher. Some students say he has been a target of sexual harassment, and school administrators won't do anything about it.

Some students at Nanakuli High School started this petition, calling for an end to a "discriminatory" atmosphere on campus towards members of the gay community. This after, they say, an openly gay teacher was targeted by other students and ultimately his bosses.

"He's been here since last year and plenty students have been making sexual harassment comments about this teacher," said Aaron Barrozo, a Nanakuli 11th grader.

Sources said he went to Principal Levi Chang to complain, but instead of getting help, he was punished.

On Monday, Dr. Kauffman was barred from tutoring kids after class. Students say he was also forced to remove decorations and books that did not directly relate to coursework.

"I think that's wrong because he helps us out and whenever we need in our work," said Kiana Merritt, a Nanakuli 11th grader. "It doesn't even matter if it's school related, he helps us whenever he can."

Some teachers also say Dr. Kauffman was targeted because of his sexual orientation. They say they still are allowed to tutor kids after school, and they have no restrictions on what they can have in their classrooms.

"Gay people should be treated equally like everybody else because they're same like us," said Merritt.

They hope the school administration changes its tune.

"I hope that doing this shows that sexual harassment affects a lot of people and maybe we would get more support on this because the principal is not really helping," said Barrozo. "I hope that people can change their styles of attitudes towards different types of people."

School administrators won't comment, saying this is a personnel matter and the school must protect individual privacy.

The Hawaii Department of Education does have a non-discrimination policy that covers sexual orientation.