Texas shooting reignites safety discussions in Hawaii public schools

The state Department of Education says it’s already taking steps to secure school campuses.
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 5:08 PM HST|Updated: May. 25, 2022 at 6:01 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - You can walk onto most public school campuses in Hawaii without having to go through security.

Some feel that poses a risk.

In the wake of the Texas school shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead, the state Department of Education says it’s already taking steps to secure school campuses.

It’s rolling out training programs to its 260 schools on how to assess student risks, beginning last month with the Waikoloa-Kamuela complex area. Tanaka says vulnerability assessments are also being completed on campuses.

“We are as prepared as we can be, we train as much as we can,” said Randall Tanaka, DOE assistant superintendent for the Office of Facilities and Operations. “We work with our student services folks, to really pay closer attention with the teachers and train the teachers if they have, or suspect the student that may be going through some struggles, and try to help the kid out.”

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Additionally, staff are trained in lockdown procedures and a campus-wide communication system should a threat occur.

The state has also hired Blue Line Solutions, which brings in former law enforcement officers to train teachers on how to handle active shooter situations.

Tanaka stopped short of saying security should be tightened, noting that open campuses are part of Hawaii’s culture of aloha.

But others are urging the DOE to take steps now to make schools more secure.

“Our buildings are totally open, all the doors are available. Can you retrofit this place to make it armor proof, I don’t see that happening,” said Ilima Intermediate School teacher Vickie Parker.

But she says some changes can be made.

Last fall, she caught a student showing off a gun at school.

“We’re seeing the increase of weapons being brought on campus, have they shot them on campus? That’s not the point. They’re here,” she said. “The potential is there, and to pretend it’s not and that we’re different isn’t going to work long-term.”

Parker says she wants to see a comprehensive state plan for keeping guns out of the hands of children.

“It’s not our kuleana to go and say, ‘Oh, these are the weak points.’ We don’t have the ability to lock down buildings like they do in some other places,” she said. “We have to then make the decision on how do we want to address gun control?

“And how do we want the schools to have to respond?”

While offering active shooter training may seem like a solution, Parker believes it doesn’t solve the larger problem: “It didn’t work in Texas, it’s not going to work here. It hasn’t worked in Columbine, and it didn’t work anywhere.

“We’ve all had the training. It’s not enough.”

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