Racial disputes and a sense of tension stemming from a series of small fights led to a high school brawl earlier this week, causing Hawaii education administrators to close the school.
Kealakehe High School, located on Hawaii’s Big Island, has seen the diversity of its student population increase since the state received an influx of immigration from Micronesia. Stress from the cultural differences led to multiple fights at the high school throughout the week and culminated in a brawl involving 20 to 30 students on Friday, according to the Associated Press. Seven male students and one female student were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct before being released.
Friday’s brawl came just two days after smaller fights caused a school lockdown that prevented students from leaving their classrooms for an extended period of time on Wednesday. The conflicts have been attributed to bullying and harassment between races as Kealakehe High School has turned into a melting pot of native Hawaiians and immigrants from the Federated States of Micronesia.
Donalyn Dela Cruz, a spokesperson for the Hawaiian Department of Education, told the AP that no students were hurt, but she noted that there has been a record of “social issues” of late.
“Kids are taunting each other. Some resulting in physical altercations,” she said. “Not many -- no major injuries -- but enough where it's caused disruption for the last two days.”
Principal Wilfred Murakami agreed, telling West Hawaii Today that the lockdown and temporary campus shutdown came as a result of “issue of people bullying through racial and cultural taunts. The result overflowed on the Micronesian side where there was frustration, yelling and screaming -- a reaction.”
Murakami said that two separate fights broke out in the morning, at which point the school's administration kept students in their classrooms. When they were released around 1:45 p.m., however, a larger brawl broke out and police had to take eight of the students away in handcuffs.
Murakami said counselors would intervene to mediate conflicts when school resumes on Monday, just in time for final exams.