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Connections School seeks help against harassment and opposition of Kaumana campus

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Photography by Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7

Hawaii 24/7 Staff

A campaign of bullying, intimidation and harassment is being waged against students, faculty and staff of Connections New Century Public Charter School in Hilo.

Attorney Ted Hong, who has been hired by the school, said anti-school stickers were found plastered near all the school entrances on Oct. 18, shocking and offending students, parents and staff.

Hong said police have been notified and the school community is offering a $500 reward to identify the culprits.

Connections opened in 1998 with 165 students as a “school within a school” at Mountain View Elementary School. Currently, the school is separated into two campuses, with the lower and middle school at the downtown Hilo Kress Building site and the high school across town at the Nani Mau Gardens.

School officials say the school now serves 361 students from Ka‘u to Laupahoehoe with a wait list for all grades.

School principal John Thatcher said students and parents appreciate the safe and creative learning environment offered by Connections.

The school hopes to build a new campus in Kaumana, but that plan faces some community opposition. Signs posted in area yards and along the street protest the new addition to Kaumana.

Thatcher said the campus will have minimal impact on the neighborhood, while the campus will play an important role in educating the students.

In preparation for fencing the leased land, which is under the jurisdiction of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, a number of ohia trees were cut down, which is in violation of the lease.

Hong said it was not the school’s intention to cut the trees down and pointed to the fence contractors.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources will address the issue at its Oct. 26 meeting in Honolulu. The school may face a number of fines, and may have to remove the fence and restore the area at school expense.

A group of staff and students are expected to attend the BLNR meeting.

However, Hong and Thatcher said there is some confusion surrounding the terms of the lease.

Nonetheless, the matter has earned the school some detractors, who presumably have been putting all the stickers on the school. Hong says the intimidation tactics will not work.

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