Maui News

‘Īao School Vandalism, Threats Investigated

March 1, 2018, 9:49 AM HST
* Updated March 1, 9:55 AM
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Maui police are investigating an incident involving a threat against ʻĪao Intermediate School by a student in the form of written graffiti in a bathroom.  Word of the incident also prompted a separate report in which a student reportedly brought a firearm on school grounds late last year.

ʻĪao Intermediate School. File photo by Wendy Osher.

Parents were first notified of the graffiti incident in a letter from Principal Matt Dillon on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018.  In the letter, Dillon said, “We wanted you to be informed of this incident so you can discuss with your child and emphasize the seriousness of this issue.”  The exact wording contained in the vandalism was not detailed. He asked that anyone with information to assist in the investigation to contact the school immediately.

Three days later, on Monday, Feb. 26, a second letter was sent to parents. In the communication, Principal Dillon said, “Upon distribution of the letter we received information that a firearm was brought on school grounds by a student in November 2017.”

According to Dillon, the firearm incident had been verified through a school and Maui Police Department investigation.  School administrators said that the MPD had assured the school that there was no imminent threat to the campus.

“Threats to our school, students and staff are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.  All members of the school community have a responsibility to report threats against the school immediately so that we may address them swiftly and appropriately,” Dillon wrote.  “If you see something, say something.”

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“The safety of our students is a major priority and we are committed to providing a secure campus.  We appreciate your help as we work together to keep all of our students safe,” he said.

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In the letter, school administrators noted that “terroristic threats” are considered a Class A student conduct offense, with penalties ranging from detention to dismissal, with the possibility of arrest and criminal charges.

Per Hawaiʻi Administrative Rules Chapter 19, “any student who possess a firearm shall be dismissed from school for not less than one calendar year period.”

School administrators took the opportunity to engage parents saying, “We encourage you to talk to your children about the seriousness of these decisions and actions.”

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An additional communication was sent out to families via email on Wednesday Feb. 28, 2018 to inform parents and guardians of the steps the school is taking in response to the recent threats to safety at ʻĪao School.  A portion of the letter is posted below:

We all want the same thing: A safe place to learn.

Our administration is reviewing procedures for lockdowns and is conducting additional safety drills with students. We are continuing our close partnership with the Maui Police Department to communicate and respond to incidents that may present a danger to our school. We are coordinating action around the school to improve safety and communication, as well as to address concerns of families and the community.

Teachers have received live-shooter training with MPD. In Homeroom and Advisory classes, teachers are working with students to improve their awareness, responsiveness and understanding of school safety issues.

Students are being provided guidance on their important role in campus safety and will be taking a “See Something, Say Something” pledge. Students have been provided an electronic reporting form and, in the fourth quarter, we will be launching a “Text to Tip” system. Both of these systems will allow students to report safety concerns to our administration and police in a confidential manner.

Counselors and teacher teams are improving systems of identification and support for students that demonstrate behavioral concerns, such as social withdrawal, negative talk and emotional problems.

Preparation to improve our school safety offers us an opportunity to strengthen our connection as a school and community for the benefit of our children. We will come together to make sure that ʻĪao School continues to be a safe place to learn. If you have any questions, please contact our administration office at 808-727-5200. Mahalo.

ʻĪao Intermediate School is located in Wailuku and serves students in grades 6, 7 and 8.  It has a current enrollment of around 920 students.

Public awareness has been heightened in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Florida on Feb. 14.  The incident had prompted several “copycat threats” at other schools across the country, and put some communities on edge following the tragedy.

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