School employees threatened with violence say DOE isn’t taking their concerns seriously

Hawaii officials insist public schools are prepared for acts of violence but employee testimonies say otherwise.
Published: May. 26, 2022 at 5:59 PM HST|Updated: May. 26, 2022 at 6:59 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In the wake of the Texas school shooting, Hawaii school officials insist public schools are prepared for acts of violence. But some who work at school campuses don’t agree.

Recordings we obtained highlight the frustration of one vice principal who was harassed repeatedly by a parent last year. “We need to take them seriously,” she said on the recording, about the threat the man made.

“He did say he was going to kill all Hawaiians at our school, I’m like what!”

Teachers and administrators often deal with angry students and parents.

But some confrontations are more threatening than others.

The parent who harassed the vice president also harassed another employee. And that employee filed a TRO.

In a safety meeting last year, her union representative questioned DOE assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations Randall Tanaka about why the security department was not providing increased protection for campuses affected by the threats.

Tanaka responded, “You need to understand that the role of our security department is not to provide protection.”

“What we do is either contract that out or that’s a function of the HPD,” he said.

To that, the union representative responded:

“Your main business is safeguarding a very vulnerable population of kids and we don’t want them to be impacted on a collateral basis in this situation.”

Katherine Balatico, former principal at Stevenson Middle School, said the security department should provide protection to everyone on campus, especially after a threat is made.

Balatico went on leave after receiving a series of threats from an unidentified person.

“The threats were not just to me, but they were to my children which means there are targets on three individuals’ backs, which means three campuses are in danger,” she said.

The threats to Balatico and her children ― one in elementary school the other in high school ― came through a series of hacked emails and a frightening phone call last January.

“I am going to shoot you right inside of your f***ing head. Right inside of your open mouth, okay,” the caller said to her.

HPD and the FBI investigated but no arrest has been made.

Balatico said the department is not being proactive with violent threats. DOE did not respond to that accusation when asked for comment Thursday.

Balatico said the schools do active shooter drills but are not doing enough threat assessment education to try and prevent acts of violence.

“I don’t think the department is prepared. I think that there are threat assessment protocols out there, as an administrator, I know that we didn’t run our staffs through them.”

Balatico filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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