Anti-bullying lawsuit gains momentum

An anti-bullying video from a first grader on Maui’s gone viral. Lawaia Uwekoolani’s video received overwhelming support.

“We’ve been getting tons of messages and so much positive feedback,” said Lawaia’s mom, Kortney Uwekoolani.

And it’s more than mahalos – it’s inspired a lot of people to open up.

“People sharing their stories of being bullied or their children being bullied in schools,” she said.

Like on Facebook: Brandi Ferguson writes, “My daughter attends the same school and we dealt with bullying for about 2 years. She was stabbed with a pencil, slapped in the face with a rubber slipper leaving a small cut under her eye…”

Or Kekoa Kekuewa who shared: “I took my daughter out of school because of bullying. She was going to be a senior she doesn’t want to go back…”

“It’s heart-wrenching because there’s no reason for that to happen,” said Eric Seitz, who watched Lawaia’s video.

Seitz is an attorney representing families in a class action lawsuit against Hawaii’s Department of Education and its superintendent. He claims DOE violated federal bullying laws by not having policies in place to help students. Once news of the lawsuit got out, his office was inundated with bullying claims.

“We’ve gotten constant phone calls, constant emails,” said Seitz. “We’re making a file of everyone who sends us information.”

At first, there were three plaintiffs. Now there are four and the case is building and building.

KITV4 reached out to Department of Education officials for comment, but they could not respond due to the pending litigation. They did point to a recent Star Advertiser editorial where DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto wrote bullying is not permitted in Hawaii schools and schools have internal processes to respond to student misconduct.

Processes Seitz said aren’t cutting it.

“Filing complaints is not the problem,” he said. “The problem is what are you doing to prevent bullying.”

The state has until the end of this week to issue their response to the class action lawsuit. Hawaii’s Attorney General’s office told KITV4 they couldn’t comment on the case but will file an answer by the deadline.

Meanwhile, Lawaia’s family wants to keep spreading the word.

“Don’t be afraid to speak out about it,” said Kortney. “Let’s all as a community come together and teach our children and us as adults to learn to love each other and be kind and just be nice to people.”

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