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Are Hawaii Schools Safe?


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Teaching Tolerance

“The majority of behavior problems in class is linked to student achievement—students who don’t feel successful in school,” says deputy superintendent Nozoe. “Locking them up and putting them on suspension isn’t the answer. We want to put them into an environment where they are successful.”

A new program, Philosophy for Kids Hawaii, is hoping to change the classroom environment by encouraging teachers to use philosophical methods. That means kids learning to ask the right questions, not memorizing information.

“We found that kids weren’t able to think through a problem,” says Chad Miller, 2012 Hawaii State Teacher of the Year and director of teacher education at UH Msnoa’s Uehiro Academy for Philosophy and Ethics in Education. “So often we’re focused on memorization of content. How much you know is how much content you can remember.”

Students work through their classroom lessons by identifying the biases they bring to new material and working to understand common ground. Those skills spill over into a better ability to negotiate conflicts in the schoolyard.

Miller says changing how teachers teach can improve safety. “We’re trying to create intellectually safe communities, to teach kids that their existence means something,” says Miller. “When kids are safe, they’re engaged, and when you put a test in front of them, they’re going to try. Safety is all about making them feel the learning is important to them.”


Community Matters

Whether it’s responding to emergencies or bullying, the troubles in our schools reflect the troubles of society. And how we, as a community, respond to these problems can be telling.

“Schools can’t do it alone, they need to reach out and talk to families and work with community organizations to share the responsibility of safe schools and respectful behavior,” says Nakamura of the He‘e Coalition.

The problem, some say, is expecting solutions to come from only one place.

“The DOE can do an excellent job with a multifaceted approach to safety, but it will fall short unless the entire school community links arms and says: ‘We are going to do this together,’” says Mulcahy. “When we stop depending on one agency, that’s when we are going to see things improve.”


Where do kids feel safe?

Every year, the Hawaii Department of Education surveys its students on how they feel about their school. One of the sections addresses student safety and wellbeing, asking students to agree or disagree with statements such as “My school is safe and clean,” and “I feel safe from bullying at school.” Here are the schools that ranked highest and lowest in this section, with the percentage of students who agreed that they felt safe at school.

1                                   Palisades Elementary School                                                                         96.5%
2                                  Manana Elementary School                                                                           96.4%
3                                  Keaukaha Elementary School                                                                        95.4%
4                                  Mililani Mauka Elementary School                                                              93.9%
5                                  Haleiwa Elementary School                                                                           93.7%

252                             Kahuku High & Intermediate School                                                           65.3%
253                             Lahaina intermediate School                                                                         63.6%
254                             Mokulele Elementary School                                                                         62.6%
255                             Aliamanu Middle School                                                                                 58.3%
256                             Maui Waena Intermediate School                                                                 47.4%


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