Lahainaluna principal removed and investigated after tough back-to-school message

Lahainaluna principal removed and investigated after tough back-to-school message
Published: Sep. 9, 2015 at 10:53 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 9, 2015 at 11:07 PM HST
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LAHAINA, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Maui principal is reassigned after getting tough on students at their welcome back assembly.

The back-to-school message riled-up students and parents and the Department of Education has now launched an investigation.

Some Lahainaluna High School students say the welcome back assembly felt more like a scolding.

It led to a petition and plans for a rally to make sure the principal doesn't come back.

The petition, which calls for a change in leadership at the oldest high school west of the Mississippi, has gained more than one thousand signatures.

The video posted on YouTube less than a month ago has gained more than 10,000 views. It shows Lahainaluna High School principal Emily DeCosta addressing students at opening assembly this year.

Some say her remarks were too harsh.

Some criticized her attire, wearing blue and white which are Maui High School's colors, and for not wearing Lahainaluna's red or black.

Some say her remarks got out of hand when she started making threats.

"What shall we get rid of?" DeCosta asked in the video.

"If seniors don't behave, guess what goes out the window. Senior Banquet," said DeCosta.

"Juniors…If you do not behave, Junior Prom goes out the window," she said.

Various letters from concerned parents were sent out saying Ms. DeCosta bullied the students and demanded the Department of Education immediately remove her as principal.

"You don't do something like that to students. You don't give threats…be more uplifting, be more positive, be more motivated, be enthusiastic," said LHS alumnus and Lahaina resident Rick Nava.

"You need to give respect to earn respect. It's pretty obvious the students don't respect her because she probably brought this upon herself," said Shaun Saribay, also a LHS alumnus and Lahaina resident.

A former teacher of the school who wanted to remain anonymous said the video brought tears to his eyes.

Complex Area Superintendent Lindsey Ball sent a letter to parents last Friday saying effective immediately DeCosta has been temporarily reassigned to the Maui District Office and Ms. Joanne Dennis is now the temporary principal at LHS.

A spokeswoman at the DOE says DeCosta has been principal there since 2010.

Community members are organizing a rally on Thursday, September 10; near Lahaina Cannery Mall at 4:00 p.m. They say they hope to get the DOE's attention to make this a permanent change.

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