Schools poised to treat bullying as a major offense on par with assault

Updated: Aug. 24, 2019 at 8:11 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As students return to class, education officials and law enforcement are hoping to do more to crack down on bullying.

The Board of Education last week approved new rules that would elevate bullying, cyberbullying, and harassment to Class A offenses, like assault, burglary and illicit drug use.

The revised discipline code, which still needs approval from Gov. David Ige, also says school investigations must be completed within five days and action taken as soon as possible.

The punishment depends on the principal.

“The proposed rules really focuses on a proactive system of support, and ensuring there are supports in place for the victim as well as the offender,” said Sheli Suzuki, DOE education specialist.

“We want to ensure they’re being educated and given the appropriate supports to do well in school."

If the governor accepts the new rules, they would go into effect on Jan. 1.

The department also launched its own reporting app for bullying incidents on campus.

It was made available to middle school students in January, and will be available to high school students in September.

“The bullying incident goes directly to the school administrator," Suzuki said.

“It provides students with another opportunity to report bullying on any DOE campus, DOE transportation, and during any DOE extra curricular activities.”

Sgt. Chris Kim, of Honolulu CrimeStoppers, says deterring bullying in schools takes a community effort and a proactive approach.

"Gone are the days where you can just consider it horse play," said Kim. "We have to start taking things seriously. It's getting out of hand."

Kim says 56 schools are participating in the Student CrimeStoppers program.

During a presentation at Sacred Hearts Academy, he spoke to students about what they should do and who they should talk to if they are ever a victim of bullying.

“They do have options and we’re here to remind them to just reach out to people and say something,” Kim said. “It’s definitely something kids need to think about, that their actions could lead to someone taking their own life. It’s happening nationwide."

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