Maui News

Hāna Student Suspended for Switching Position of Hawaiian Flag

March 23, 2018, 1:32 PM HST
* Updated March 23, 4:32 PM
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PC: Jesiah Malaikini

A 16-year-old student at Hāna High and Elementary School in East Maui was suspended after an incident earlier this month in which he and another unnamed student rearranged the flags on the school flagpole, raising the Hawaiian flag, above the American flag.

“I wasn’t too sad to be suspended for standing up for what I believe in and what is right especially when it comes to our kanaka lāhui,” Jesiah Malaikini tells Maui Now.

According to Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes, “when the United States flag is displayed with the Hawaiian flag, the national flag shall occupy such position of honor.”

Malaikini said he felt oppressed by the daily reminder of seeing the Hawaiian flag below the US flag, and compared the current placement practice to bullying.  “It’s just like a big middle finger to us,” Malaikini said in a Kalama O Ka ʻĀina Facebook live interview in which he referenced the Apology Resolution.

The resolution was signed in 1993 by then President Bill Clinton and acknowledged the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the inherent sovereignty of the Native Hawaiian people. “Sorry, not sorry, is basically what it is. It’s terrible,” he said.

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“Having our land stolen and our people killed, our queen held at gun point and imprisoned, and having a cultural genocide happen to where we couldn’t worship our gods and speak our language, or dance our hula,” Malaikini explained.  “So I changed the flags to make a change because WE ARE STILL HERE,” said Malaikini in an email response to Maui Now’s request for comment.

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The incident occurred on the same day as his school’s observance of the Parkland Solidarity School Walk out against gun violence on March 14, 2018.  Malaikini said he was ordered by school administrators to put the flags back. He declined and was subsequently suspended.

As part of his suspension, Malaikini who is a junior at Hāna school, says he was asked to write about about why the flags are flown in their current position. He tells Maui Now that he plans instead on writing about why every school campus on every Hawaiian island should have two flag poles.

Last month, a group of about 15 individuals seized the American and Hawaiian flags at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College, requesting that both flags be flown on two separate poles of equal height.  In December of 2014, Hawaiian Kingdom advocates participated in a similar effort held at the University of Hawaiʻi Hilo campus. The UH campus chancellors have since agreed to the two-flagpole approach that is used at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol and other University of Hawaiʻi campuses.

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He tells us that his initial goal was to get two flag poles at his school, but he now sees a broader purpose.

In addition to a two flag approach, Malaikini is advocating for “proper education” in school on the overthrow and the tens of thousands of signatures from those who opposed annexation to the US.

He hopes that seniors will one day be able to request a Hawaiian Kingdom diploma to graduate as a Hawaiian citizen. He has also requested an apology from the Department of Education.

Hāna High School principal Richard Paul said all media requests regarding the situation are being handled by the Department of Education. Department of Education Communication Specialist, Derek Inoshita responded to our request for information saying, “We can’t go into detail about this disciplinary case due to federal student privacy laws.”

When asked if there was any discussion underway by the DOE about implementing a two flagpole system, Inoshita said, there are no current department-wide plans at the state’s 256 public schools.

“These heavy-duty commercial aluminum outdoor poles can range between $7,000 to $9,000, not including installation costs. Each site would require construction based on the flagpole foundation, which may vary from campus to campus,” said Inoshita of the costs associated with constructing additional flagpoles.

More than 400 individuals have signed an online petition at change.org, urging legislators to erect two flag poles so that the US and Hawaiʻi flag can stand together at equal height.  A gofundme account was also started to raise funds for the construction of a second flagpole at the school. As of this publication, the account had raised more than  $1,300 of its $8,000 goal.

“It’s not that I am anti-American; It’s just that we’re pro-Hawaiian,” Malaikini told KITV.

Malaikini tells Maui Now that he plans to go to either the University of Hawaiʻi or a trade school in California after graduation, and continue fighting for human rights.

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