Kealakehe High School is closed today in the wake of two days of violence and lockdowns stemming from racial and cultural tensions that have led to eight arrests and multiple fights breaking out on campus.
Principal Wilfred Murakami said, before stopping himself, that several incidents on campus that began Wednesday and hit a boiling point on Thursday were the result of an ongoing “issue of people bullying through racial and cultural taunts. The result overflowed on the Micronesian side where there was frustration, yelling and screaming — a reaction … .”
The situation came to a head Wednesday with a lot of “loud yelling, swearing and screaming” between two groups of students that included boys and girls at lunch time, around 11:45 a.m., said Murakami. There was no physical altercation between any of the students. No weapons were involved, he said.
The school was subsequently placed on lockdown, sending students back to classrooms, and Hawaii Police Department officers responded, he said. A second lockdown went into effect shortly after school let out because of another verbal altercation. No arrests were made.
When students returned Thursday, the situation was festering and by 1:30 p.m., Murakami said, three separate fights broke out on campus during the school’s lunch recess. Apparently, one student involved in the previous day’s incident felt she was still being taunted and teased and began screaming and yelling, Murakami said.
That “behavior,” Murakami said, “triggered” other students to fight. Two fights broke out in a driveway mauka of the school’s library, while a third occurred simultaneously in a different area of the campus. The girl was not involved in any of the altercations, he added.
The two fights near the library were broken up by students and school personnel within a few minutes, however, six police officers responded and helped break up the third group, which was already dispersing, according to Murakami and police.
The school was immediately placed on lockdown and remained that way until the campus closed early for the day at around 2:15 p.m., Murakami said. Buses were summoned to take students home and some parents picked up their children.
Murakami said no serious injuries were reported among staff and students. However, he said some students did suffer “small bumps and bruises” that required no medical attention.
Murakami said about seven students were involved in the fights and two were arrested. However, police said they arrested eight students, all juveniles, on suspicion of “unruly conduct” after responding to the school. None of the officers was injured.
The eight arrested students, one female and seven males, were taken to the Kona police cellblock pending further investigation and notification of their parents, according to police. They all were charged with disorderly conduct, according to police.
Suspensions or expulsions of students are possible pending an incident review, Murakami said. He noted no weapons were involved.
All classes, activities and sports practices today at Kealakehe High School have been canceled, Murakami said. Parents were to be notified of the closure by their children, social media and by phone messages, he said.
A band concert slated this evening has also been called off. Students may take part in athletic events off-campus, he said.
“Anything here on campus is canceled,” he said.
The school’s normal hours and schedule will resume on Monday, Murakami said.
The issue involving racial and cultural tensions has been “going on for a while” at the nearly 15-year-old school, Murakami said. Discussions and mediation were offered to students who requested help prior to this week’s incidents. The school will continue such efforts, he said.
For more information and updates, Murakami suggested visiting the school’s website, khswaveriders.org. Concerned parents may contact Murakami at the school at 327-4300 or via cellphone at 960-0459; Scott Tamura, vice principal, at 960-8766; or Tammy Furrer, vice principal, at 960-8036.