An arraignment hearing Thursday was continued for a former Kahakai Elementary School employee charged with assault, harassment and disorderly conduct in connection with a February incident involving a student at the Kailua-Kona school.
Pedro Gandalira of Captain Cook did not enter a plea to charges of third-degree assault of a minor, harassment and disorderly conduct involving coarse behavior or abuse language likely to provoke a violent response before 3rd Circuit District Court Judge Joseph P. Florendo Jr. The case was continued after Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sheri Lawson informed the court of a potential conflict of interest in the case because Gandalira’s wife is a court employee.
Gandalira, who is not a teacher, is slated to enter a plea at 1 p.m. Jan. 3 before Florendo.
The charges against Gandalira were filed Oct. 16 following an alleged Feb. 1 incident at the school. West Hawaii Today is not identifying the child or its family.
According to the child’s parents, the child was trying to hand a friend a lunch card when Gandalira reportedly told the child to look forward. The child then turned turned to give the friend the card when Gandalira allegedly took the child’s hat and struck the child’s head with it.
The child, according to its parents, subsequently went to the health room because the student believed the hit caused a cut. Gandalira allegedly followed the child there and while the child had an ice pack to its head began shouting such phrases as “You’re trying to get me in trouble!” and “What’s your problem!” according to the parents.
According to the child’s parents, the school’s Vice Principal, James Hao, had to remove Gandalira physically.
The parents said they took the child on Feb. 2 to file a police report after learning the full extent of the incident. A temporary restraining order against Gandalira was granted Feb. 6.
Kahakai Elementary School Principal Jessica Yamasawa was reportedly on leave and Vice Principal Nancy Juddalah did not return calls seeking comment. West Hawaii Area Complex Superintendent Art Souza also did not respond.
The parents further allege Kahakai did not immediately notify them or police. They also allege the school gave the family’s personal information to Gandalira and blamed the child’s reaction on medication.
The family believes their child suffered “permanent psychological harm” and had they known earlier, care could have started soon after the incident. The family also alleges the school delayed home hospital instruction for the child by taking four weeks to start the program after an initial request was made.
Since the incident, the child has moved to another school. The parents say police and prosecutors did a good job investigating the case and provided ample support.
They pursued criminal charges to bring the matter to public light.
“We can show that by doing the right thing that good things can come,” said one of the parents.
Third-degree assault and disorderly conduct are misdemeanor offenses punishable by up to one year incarceration and a maximum fine of $2,000. Harassment is a petty misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days incarceration and fine up to $1,000.