Lawmaker’s post questioning LGBTQ flags at Hawaii school draws backlash

The chair of this year's Prince Kuhio Parade has now removed a state lawmaker from the event after controversial remarks about pride flags at an Ewa school.
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 9:48 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 24, 2023 at 4:34 PM HST
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EWA BEACH (HawaiiNewsNow) - Freshman state Rep. Elijah Pierick is drawing widespread criticism for comments he made on a social media post about LGBTQ rainbow flags displayed at a Hawaii school.

The latest reaction to the comments came Friday morning, when the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement announced Pierick had been disinvited from participating in Saturday’s Prince Kuhio Parade in Kapolei.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Kurt Fevella took to Facebook to question Pierick’s motivation.

“Yes, we have freedom of speech, but we don’t have freedom of hate,” Fevella said. “That was not pono.”

Pierick made his comments during a school visit video that was posted on Instagram.

“I want to give a shout-out to all the staff and faculty at Ewa Makai Middle School,” said Pierick, during the video.

But then he added: “There’s one object I want to point out, and that is the LGBTQ flag outside of her office, and in different office spaces around the school. Well, what does that flag actually represent?”

Pierick questioned whether the flag, representing inclusion for gays, lesbians, transgenders and others, is appropriate at a public school. “Are these the kinds of concepts and lifestyles we want to be conveying to our middle school students?” he asks, in the video.

The backlash to the video has been resounding.

The public school teachers union said schools must be inclusive, especially for LGBTQ students.

“These students are some of our most vulnerable students, and we want to make sure that these students are willing to come in to our classrooms, to our schools, and they don’t feel that they’re being pushed out,” said Osa Tui, Jr., president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

Fifteen state representatives have also filed a letter of complaint with the state House’s chief clerk, claiming the video may have broken state laws, and harasses students and faculty.

“Not only are their rights of expression regarding gender identity protected, but defended by your local governments and by your school administrators,” said state Rep. Sonny Ganaden (D-Kalihi), one of the writers of the letter.

“What Rep. Pierick did was unacceptable,” he added.

Pierick defended the post, saying, “I do believe that the parents should have a role in the upbringing of their children, and they should be contacting their teachers and their principals when a curriculum is presented, or symbols are introduced into schools so that it’s a hui, that it’s a conversation where everyone’s involved.”

Meanwhile, Ewa Makai Principal Kim Sanders said inclusiveness leads to successful student outcomes.

“I’m so appreciative of the outpouring support from our community members who have reached out with positive calls and emails,” Sanders said.

Pierick remains firm in his stand.

“I believe based on the First Amendment everybody has a voice, and we should come to the table expressing our various perspectives and voices,” he said.