Hawaii News in Brief 08-19-19

Maui Island clear of tree-killing Hawaii fungal disease

WAILUKU — A fungal disease local to Hawaii has not been rediscovered after being found on Maui for the first time earlier this year, officials said.

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The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources did not find evidence of the disease known as rapid ohia death after completing air surveys Friday, the Maui News reported.

A single ohia tree was afflicted early July with Ceratocystis huliohia on a private beach about 53 miles (85 kilometers) east of Wailuku, officials said.

The tree tested positive for the less aggressive level of the fungus, which also plagued a tree on Oahu around the same time, officials said.

“On the bright side for our island in particular is that most ohia is on protected lands and in high elevations,” said Jeff Bagshaw, communications and outreach specialist at the department.

Ohia grow on about 125 square miles in Maui, “which is a lot more than people know or assume,” Bagshaw said.

Rapid Ohia Death has affected vast amounts of land and thousands of trees on Hawaii Island since its detection in 2014, and the more aggressive fungus was responsible for killing 90% of the trees on the Big Island, officials said.

Quarterly aerial surveys are conducted and trees are tested across the islands to avoid an outbreak situation, officials said.

The best way to help protect ohia is to avoid injuring the trees, transporting the plants across islands and cleaning hiking materials including boot soles and vehicles, officials said. There is no known cure for the fungus, and it can be spread in soil that sticks to footwear, gear and tires.

Ohia trees are considered a keystone species that provide a habitat for endangered species and are important to Hawaii culture.

Hawaii school board 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.

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.

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.

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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.

From wire sources

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