No lei at graduation? That’s what parents at some Hawaii high schools are being told

Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 5:46 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 18, 2022 at 10:16 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Parents of some Leilehua High School students have started a petition to protest a ban on lei at this year’s graduation ceremony.

A letter was recently sent home explaining that the school’s COVID policies would still be in place, including the banning of lei, signs and gifts on campus.

Baldwin High School on Maui is also not allowing lei giving.

The DOE says it’s up to each individual school to decide which policies will be implemented and clarified that the latest guidance for commencement does not specifically prohibit lei giving.

“The Department’s guidance was designed to provide schools with flexibility in determining event-specific details that maintain the health and safety of all attendees,” DOE said, in a statement.

Leilehua parents say students should be given the opportunity to celebrate the traditional way.

“I’m really upset about just the fact that we’re tending to the tourists, but we’re not even taking care of our own,” said parent Rodney Sanchez. “I think we need to readdress this and and let these kids enjoy their graduation. It’s once in a lifetime when you graduate high school.”

“The graduation is outdoors. And if they’re afraid of parents loitering, all we want to do is give our kids the aloha and the love of their momentous occasion,” added parent Mahina Chillingworth.

Chillingworth argues that she was able to lei her son at his football senior night last November.

“We were allowed to give our kids leis, you know, I have photos of my son with leis up to his ears when on his senior night,” Chillingworth said. “So we don’t understand what is the big difference?”

Leilehua High Principal Jason Nakamoto said senior night was smaller, which allowed more control. He said they are looking for a way to at least allow lei giving to the household’s graduate.

He said in a statement:

“We are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of everyone on campus. We need to minimize the crossing of households which makes the traditional style of lei giving difficult. We do not have adequate space to accommodate 350 graduates and their households to all come to the field at once. So we are looking at a way to stagger the dismissal like last year.”

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