Police say several arrests have been made as an investigation continues into allegations of widespread sexual abuse between classmates at Hawaii's public school for the deaf and blind.Police say several juvenile males have been arrested since the investigation began earlier this year. There are dozens of victims and several alleged perpetrators.
According to sources, the molestation which included rape began years ago, allegedly instigated by one young student.
The abuse worsened as other student victims were forced to become perpetrators themselves, fearing retaliation if they didn't follow suit.
"Certainly this kind of a situation is shocking, any number of people who are praying on those who are vulnerable, who can't protect themselves, it's the dark side of human nature I'm afraid so it doesn't surprise me that it's other children."" says John Dellera, Hawaii Disability Rights Center.
The Hawaii Center for the Deaf and Blind is located on Oahu, in the Kapahulu area.
However a number of students board there from the neighbor islands, and live in dormitories where much of the abuse allegedly took place.
In any case of abuse and neglect you have the problem of reprisal, you have the fear that people have of speaking out," says Dellera.
No adults are suspects in the case, but victims and their families say the problems were known to adults on campus.
The principal has been placed on directed leave by the Department of Education, and an acting principal has temporarily been assigned to the school.
"The parents whose children were suspected of wrong doing and parents of children apparently were preyed upon were never told," says Michael Green, attorney.
The Department of Education said "At the onset of the investigation, immediate steps were taken by the department to increase security and safety measures on campus to ensure the safety and well-being of students and employees. Students, parents, staff, and the community place their trust in our public schools."
And that the DOE "is committed to investigate all claims of inappropriate behavior."
Authorities are investigating too.
Disability rights advocates say such investigations pose unique challenges and opportunities.
"Children who can't see and who might be hearing impaired are not going to be able to respond in certain ways and give the kind of information," says Dellera.
While the criminal investigation is pursued through the juvenile justice system at this time, a civil class action lawsuit may be forthcoming.
"Because I am clear that some of the people a the very top knew I have no doubt about that," says Green.
What's still unknown is exactly how long it went on and how many victims are involved.
"I've spoken to two parents but I have a feeling there's probably at least 30 to 40 families that are involved maybe more," says Green.
Prosecutors declined to comment on the status of those arrested.
The Honolulu Police Department says the investigation is ongoing and anyone with additional information should contact the school and police.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
KHON-TV in Honolulu:
Posted by BA Haller at 12:00 AM