Students walk out of Keaau High in protest

More than 100 students walked out of Keaau High School on Thursday, protesting sexual assault and providing both awareness and support for victims.

The group of students, known as the Keaau Survivors, handed out flyers, shared wearable pins and ribbons, and coordinated a route across campus.


The walk led down to the stadium, where a few dozen staff members, alumni and parents honked horns and offered support.

“Our mission is to make it comfortable for victims to come out and share their stories,” said Keaau sophomore Crislin Stamsos, who helped organize the event.

Hand-drawn signs read “My Clothes Are Not Consent” and “It’s Not A Compliment, It’s Harassment,” while students chanted in unison “Break the silence, stop the violence.”

“It’s an ongoing issue, and we want survivors to know it’s okay to speak up about their situations,” said Keaau student and fellow organizer Briana Rose Agustin.

Several incidents shared via social media sparked the walkout, most notably a letter that resurfaced from a former student claiming to have been coerced into a sexual relationship with a teacher at Keaau High.

The incidents allegedly occurred over a several-year period roughly 17 years ago, when the student was 16 years old. The teacher is still working at Keaau High.

The claims resulted in an investigation by the Department of Education, which found no proof of wrongdoing.

Allegations ranged from inappropriate questions and comments, to sexual manipulation and intercourse, with the former student claiming in her letter to have been told “people disappear on an island all the time.”

A response was issued by Keaau Principal Dean Cevallos, who sent parents a note May 4 detailing the steps of the DOE’s investigation.

“The safety and well-being of our students is a top priority at Keaau High,” he said in the letter. “While the department has a policy of not disclosing the details of personnel matters, Keaau High needs to provide our school community with accurate information.”

The letter stated the accusations were “inaccurate,” and that “after conducting fact finding and interviewing the complainant, defendant and witnesses, the department’s investigation concluded that there was insufficient information to substantiate the former student’s claims, and the case was subsequently closed.”

While students participating in the walkout were aware of the letter, they expressed concerns about other alleged incidents on campus.

The students discussed the circulation of an inappropriate photo taken of a student in the campus cafeteria, while others mentioned excessive, uncomfortable compliments from a staff member and an overall culture of “victim blaming.”

“I hope other schools in the community look at what we’ve done and think about what they can do for their own school,” said student organizer Madelyn Smith. “I know we’re not the only high school that experiences stuff like this.”

The students also expressed concerns about communicating with the administration regarding inappropriate incidents.

“They should be providing us with advice and with safety, but they’ve been ignoring us, so we decided to speak up,” said Agustin. “We’ve been ignored for too long.”

The walkout was not a school-sanctioned event, and an email from Cevallos was sent to parents Thursday morning trying to dissuade students from participating.

“Students that choose to participate in the walkout will be subject to the School Discipline (Chapter 19),” wrote the principal.

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” said Smith, regarding the potential consequences for participating. “I’m a straight-A student. I want to get into a good college, and I really care about school. But this is also something I’m really passionate about, and it hurts to see admin, who are supposed to be guiding us into our futures and helping us learn and grow, stopping us by suspending us, threatening us, giving us referrals, and saying this is wrong. I know this is right, so I went through with this.”

Supporting the students was former Keaau teacher Brianna Sanchez. Sanchez said she recently left her position in January after expressing similar concerns to the students.

“One of the saddest things was leaving this same group of young adults that are going to be our next leaders that have big dreams,” said Sanchez, who has continued her career in education within a different department. “I might have left the high school, but I didn’t quit the kids.”

The students acknowledged the support they felt from some teachers and staff.

“All of my teachers are super supportive, and I would feel comfortable going to any of them if something ever happened to me,” Smith said. “But the problem is, if I tell them, they have to go to admin, and everything else falls apart.”

The respectful demonstration served as a moment of solidarity between teachers, staff, parents and alumni, all of whom echoed the same sentiment to the students: “We hear you.”

“I’m so proud of them and their courage,” said former Keaau student Leimana Koehler. “There were alumni here from the first graduating class, so they came from all generations. I love Keaau high, but as with everything, it needs a little work.”

When asked what the students hoped to accomplish, the resounding answer was spreading awareness and support.

“We hope that this will reach other places, other islands and other schools,” said Agustin. “We hope we inspire them to speak up against sexual assault in their communities.”

Email Grant Phillips at

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