LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i County Council on Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution to encourage schools to adopt anti-bullying policies and regulations.
“This item was initiated by Councilmember Rapozo in response to the death by suicide of a young man in Waimea,” said Councilman KipuKai Kuali‘i, who co-introduced the resolution with Rapozo.
“School bullying, harassment and intimidation can directly affect a student’s health and well-being and thus contribute to excess absences from school, physical sickness, mental and emotional anguish, and long-term social and mental illness,” Kuali‘i said.
Rapozo said the resolution may not stop bullying right away, but will raise awareness for those who can take care of the problem.
“It’s not part of growing up; it shouldn’t be part of growing up,” Rapozo said of being bullied, adding that he knows what it is like to have to hide in school to avoid being beaten. “I personally was bullied my whole eighth-grade year in Waipahu High School.”
D.Q. Jackson, executive director at Malama Pono Health Services, said, “Youth suicide is just intolerable to us, specially when it deals with young people who don’t feel quite the same as all the other kids, and this bullying had been quite a problem and concern for us.”
Jackson said Malama Pono and YWCA has been working closely together in securing grants to promote programs to stop bullying.
YWCA Executive Director Renee Hamilton said she is aware bullying happens everyday at schools. YWCA and Malama Pono have been conducting youth programs at Kaua‘i’s schools to teach students how to treat each other with respect.
William Arakaki, Kaua‘i superintendent for the state Department of Education, has been “very generous and very supportive” of the YWCA’s efforts, Hamilton said.
With the help of Arakaki, YWCA has been able to promote dialogue with parents, teacher and students about the subject, and also formed gay-straight alliance clubs in two Kaua‘i schools, bringing together students of different sexual orientations, she said.
“When we have clubs like this, it really does bring down the incidences of bullying across the board,” Hamilton said. “The research is there. It’s been proven.”
Council Vice Chair JoAnn Yukimura called bullying “sad” and “anti-aloha.” She thanked Rapozo and Kuali‘i for introducing the resolution.
“We need to know everybody needs to kokua to make this place the best it can be,” Council Chair Jay Furfaro said.
“We got to share aloha,” said Councilman Dickie Chang, adding that stopping bullying is everybody’s responsibility. The entire state, he said, will be hearing about the Kaua‘i resolution.
Council members Tim Bynum and Nadine Nakamura also supported the resolution and thanked Rapozo and Kuali‘i for introducing it.
• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.