BOE approves misconduct code revisions

HONOLULU — The Hawaii school board has voted to elevate the seriousness of high school bullying and harassment as disciplinary offenses, officials said.

The Hawaii state Board of Education passed a revised misconduct code Thursday that included making bullying, cyberbullying and harassment Class A offenses and the most serious of four levels of misconduct, the Star-Advertiser reported.

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Individual school principals still have the power to determine the consequences of these actions.

“The discipline that is issued is not predetermined by the class of offense that is issued,” said Heidi Armstrong, assistant superintendent of the Office of Student Support Services. “That is uniquely on a student-by-student, case-by-case basis.”

Principals are required to consider five factors, including the intent of the offender and the severity of the offense, school officials said.

School-level investigations are to be completed within five days, and both parties are to be notified with further action to “preserve the safety of everyone involved,” board members said.

The revisions also state civil rights complaints can now be filed by a student who experiences or witnesses discrimination, harassment, bullying or retaliation, school officials said. Parents and employees who know about or witness this behavior can also file complaints.

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The U.S. Office of Civil Rights found the state’s school system was not supporting its students, so the misconduct code added those changes to act in accordance with regulations, school officials said.

The department expects to train school staff on the changes in October and November if the governor approves the new rules, officials said. The revised code is expected to take effect Jan. 1.

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