Tensions reportedly still high after Kealakehe Intermediate student altercation

KAILUA-KONA — Parents of students at Kealakehe Intermediate School are voicing their concerns about disputes among the student population this week, which some describe as being racially motivated, stemming from a physical altercation reported to police last week.

A physical dispute occurred Sept. 19 at the end of the school day in the area of campus where students wait to be picked up from school by buses and guardians.

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No students suffered serious injuries during the initial dispute, which Kealakehe Intermediate acting principal Joyce Crisafi said last week lasted between 20-25 minutes, and no arrests were made by police.

Tasha Kolo, a parent of a student at Kealakehe Intermediate, said numerous fights have broken out among the students at the school the past few days. She said the fights have been between the different racial and ethnic groups in the student body.

She said she has visited the school and Crisafi five times this week to discuss the fights taking place, but she is unsatisfied with the lack of action the school has taken against the students involved. Kolo said she is worried the fights will escalate into something more serious.

“Is that what we’re going to wait for? Until these kids bring lighters and set flags on fire, and bring actual knives?” Kolo said. “Because the staff is not holding the students responsible. This little fight instigated a riot and is still continuing.”

Crisafi could not be reached for comment by press time Thursday.

The Hawaii Police Department said Thursday no more incidents at the school involving fights or riots have been reported to the police since the Sept. 19 incident.

Kolo said the students at the school feel unsafe and she doesn’t trust the school administration to handle the situation properly, which she described as “out of hand.”

Crisafi took over as principal at the school while principal Mark Hackelberg is on medical leave.

Kealakehe Intermediate is currently without a school resource officer on campus, as the school’s officer is currently on maternity leave and has not been replaced by the police department.

A memo from the state Department of Education and signed by Crisafi was sent home with students Friday, Sept. 20. The statement said pushing, shoving and name calling was what occurred between the students that day. The statement also said police and additional security were present on campus Sept. 20 to ensure the safety of the students and staff.

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“In addition, school staff will provide the opportunity for students to voice their concerns and work towards increasing student understanding of differences (i.e. ethnicity, culture, social interests),” the letter said.

The letter in its entirety is available online at Kealakehe Intermediate’s website.

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