EXCLUSIVE: Witnesses recount school abuse

EXCLUSIVE: Witnesses recount school abuse
Published: Feb. 28, 2013 at 4:35 AM HST|Updated: Oct. 24, 2013 at 2:11 PM HST
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Kipapa Elementary School
Kipapa Elementary School

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For some disabled students at Kipapa Elementary School, it was a nightmare of physical abuse, verbal assaults and emotional attacks.

That's the account of two witnesses who said students in one of the school's special education classes were routinely berated, restrained, tied to chairs and even force fed.

"It was frightening for these poor little kids," said the women, who would agree to speak only on the condition of anonymity.

"It really hurts us that kids are being hurt and nothing's being done. These kids will grow up traumatized."

So far, parents of six former students have come forward with charges that their children were victimized by a teacher and an educational aide. Two lawsuits have been filed and a third is expected soon.

The witnesses said they first complained to Kipapa's Principal Corrine Yogi in 2010 after watching an eight-year-old autistic child being held down by the neck for more than ten minutes. But they said Yogi did little to investigate the matter.

"She was in pain. She was crying. They were like going against her will. She wants to get up but they were holding her down," said one of the witnesses.

The pair said another student was tied to her chair and forced to watch television for hours while staffers placed a pin on the nose of a third student after she began to act up.

Another child was often forced fed until she vomited, they said. That student -- who had trouble eating food at school -- was forced to throw up in her shirt and in some instances was required to eat food she spit up or food that had been placed in the garbage, they said.

"It was really traumatizing to see these kids suffer," one said.

In court papers, state Deputy Attorney General Carter Siu accused the women of lying. The Department of Education gave this statement late today:

"To date, the allegations have not been substantiated despite investigations by the DOE and the Department of the Attorney General," the DOE said.

"(Any) reports of incidents that threaten the safety and well being of students are handled immediately."

The pair said an investigator with the AG's office also threaten them with criminal prosecution. They said they have nothing to gain by lying and that their accounts will eventually be held up in court.

"We feel betrayed," they said. "Why wasn't anything done when we presented it?."

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