EXCLUSIVE: Kipapa Elementary faces more abuse claims

EXCLUSIVE: Kipapa Elementary faces more abuse claims
Published: Feb. 27, 2013 at 12:21 AM HST|Updated: Oct. 24, 2013 at 2:10 PM HST
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Kristen Briceno
Kristen Briceno

For half a dozen former Kipapa Elementary School students, room P-10 was a little class of horrors.

Hawaii News Now has learned that the families of six disabled students have now come forward with allegations of abuse by staffers at this Mililani School.

The latest allegations come from the parents of an autistic girl who say school staffers force fed their daughter, often to the point of vomiting.

Court documents filed in U.S. District Court say that in some instances the girl -- who often had trouble eating -- was forced to eat food she threw up. People familiar with the case say the girl also was pressured to eat food that was thrown in the trash.

Sources say staffers punished another student -- one who suffered from seizures and is blind in one eye -- by placing a large plastic clip on her nose for several minutes.

The bizarre charges come after Hawaii News Now first reported on a lawsuit alleging that two Kipapa staffers grabbed an eight-year-old autistic girl by the neck and held her down for several minutes.

Another suit alleged that staffers tied a seven-year-old girl to a chair with a scarf and forced her to watch television for hours.

Attorneys for the students say that the families of six students have complained that their children were physically abused.

Many of the students are severely autistic and have trouble speaking. Parents say they only found out about the incidents after two contract workers provided them with photographs and videos.

Hawaii News Now has learned that the two whistleblowers were threatened with potential criminal prosecution by the state Attorney General's office after they came forward.

The AG's office declined comment, citing the pending litigation. But in court documents, Deputy Attorney General Carter Siu said the two contract workers lied about the incidents. The workers deny the charge.

Other parents at Kipapa, who are not involved in the cases, say they are alarmed the school hasn't publicly addressed the issue.

"It's very worrisome. I believe children need advocates and we need to listen to our children and it's important we take care of our children who can't speak for themselves," said Kristen Briceno, who daughter is in the first grade at Kipapa.

Lawyers for the students faulted school Principal Corrine Yogi for not taking adequate steps to investigate the matter.

At one point, they say Yogi invited members of her church into classroom P-10 to pray about the matter.

Two of the staffers singled out for physically abusing students were initially placed on administrative leave but were later allowed to return to campus, lawyers say. One of them has since retired.

Yogi has repeatedly declined comment.

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