Maui News

ACLU Hawaiʻi sues City, DOE, HPD officers over student arrest

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaiʻi and Caballero Law LLC filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court against the City and County of Honolulu, the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Education, and Honolulu Police Department for alleged federal civil rights violations.

The lawsuit was filed on Jan. 7, 2022 on behalf of Tamara Taylor and her daughter, N.B. This lawsuit follows a letter that was sent to the City, HPD, and DOE in October 2021 demanding relief, however the ACLU says “no relief was granted.”

The lawsuit lists the following causes of action as allegations in the lawsuit: False arrest; use of excessive force; discrimination; disability-based discrimination; negligence; and negligent training and supervision. The ACLU notes that N.B. was the only Black student involved.

The newly-filed lawsuit describes an incident in January 2020. The ACLU lawsuit alleges that N.B., who is now 12-years old, “was handcuffed and arrested by HPD officers, and her mother was falsely detained by DOE officials, at Honowai Elementary School.”

As described in the lawsuit, and detailed by the ACLU, “The day prior to her arrest, N.B. had made an offensive drawing together with other classmates, following an incident in which she was bullied by a third child.”

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The ACLU reports that N.B. has a disability and often draws as a coping mechanism for her disability. “When the drawing was finished, N.B. did not want to give the picture to that child, but one of the other classmates involved in making the drawing later delivered it against N.B.’s wishes,” according to the ACLU.

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That same day the drawing was brought to the school’s attention. The next morning, the parent of another child insisted that that the school call the police, which the school did.

HPD officers responded and interrogated N.B. and her mother. According to the complaint, the ACLU says “neither HPD officers nor DOE officials questioned or investigated any of the other children involved in making the drawing. N.B. was the only Black student involved.”

Honolulu Police Department spokesperson, Michelle You said, “HPD’s position has not changed as set forth in the November 2021 response to the ACLU Hawaiʻi’s demand letter.  Because there is an active, ongoing lawsuit which is being handled by the Department of the Corporation Counsel, HPD will refrain from further comment.”

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The full response from the November 2021 HPD letter is posted below:

  • HPD response letter to the ACLU in November 2021. PC: HPD
  • HPD response letter to the ACLU in November 2021. PC: HPD
  • HPD response letter to the ACLU in November 2021. PC: HPD
  • HPD response letter to the ACLU in November 2021. PC: HPD
  • HPD response letter to the ACLU in November 2021. PC: HPD

Maui Now also sought a response from the Hawaiʻi Department of Education, but did not receive a reply at the time of this posting. *(This story may be updated if further clarification is received. Check back for updates).

The ACLU alleges harm and trauma occurred as a result of the incident.

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