The U.S. Department of Education has reached a voluntary agreement with the Hawaii public school system over a bullying complaint lodged by the parents of a Waianae High School teen.
Pamela and Robert Hogan say at first they did not understand why their daughter Zoe would make up excuses about not wanting to go to school. When she did go, they would get calls from the office saying she was always arriving late to class.
The Hogans said their daughter endured harassment by fellow students until she broke down and told them what was happening.
?She started to wake up crying in the middle of the night and then she confided they were threatening her. They said watch your back,? said Pamela Hogan.
?They were saying things like 'haole cockroaches can?t use these stairs.' They were physically threatening her, taunting her about her appearance, said Robert Hogan.
After flagging the problem at the school level and at the district level to the DOE hot line, the Hogans say they didn?t hear back, so they filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.
A letter from the civil rights office with the U.S. DOE dated Sept. 29 indicates that it had reached a voluntary agreement with Hawaii officials over the complaint.
Starting in January administrators and staff at Waianae High School will begin sexual and racial harassment training in an effort to identify what is harassment, and how to handle complaints.
?The training and notice are intended to make sure the department of education policy is no sexual harassment, no racial harassment. It is not acceptable and we are taking this seriously,? said Hawaii School Superintendent Kathy Matayoshi.
The Hawaii DOE makes no admission that it violated any laws. It will however make sure that parents and students know that bullying will not be tolerated. It will spell out the process for filing a formal or informal complaint about possible harassment.
Robert Hogan wants to share his story to give others hope.
?I was one person that was getting no attention and I took some further steps and now someone is listening to me and my concern is maybe someone in Kaneohe has the same problem and is going what I am going through, speak up, you can do something about it,? he said. ?I am sad it took so long. This could have been resolved easier, but in a way I?m glad it wasn?t. We might have just made things better for her and are making things better for everyone and that?s what really matters."