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Gay father sues Department of Education over bullying

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    Hilo Union Elementary

KAILUA-KONA » A father of two has filed a lawsuit claiming East Hawaii public schools have failed to protect his kids from bullying because of their dad’s sexual orientation.

Joshua Alameda Franklin filed a lawsuit Aug. 7 naming the Department of Education, state schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, Deputy Superintendent Stephen Schatz and others as defendants, West Hawaii Today reported ( ).

Franklin says 9-year-old Poha Stevens-Alameda and 10-year-old Alea Stevens-Alameda have been bullied for years because their father is gay. He says he has repeatedly asked school administrators to intervene with no success.

The two boys say they’ve been called homophobic slurs by their classmates at Hilo Union Elementary, Waiakeawaena Elementary and other schools.

"It makes me sad. And mad," Alea said.

Franklin said the tension culminated in a physical altercation between Alea and another student.

"You know, this altercation had happened, and (Alea) tells me that he doesn’t want to go to school anymore," Franklin said. "He’s scared no one’s paying attention. ‘They’re not going to help me. The teachers aren’t listening to me.’"

A YouTube video where Alea says he has to defend his dad’s sexuality to other kids has been viewed about 57,000 times and resulted in a letter to parents from the Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area superintendent at the time, Valerie Takata.

"We are addressing the claims raised in that video and realize the issue of bullying goes beyond our schools," the letter said.

Franklin says the letter is not enough.

DOE spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said in an email Wednesday that the department is committed to creating a safe atmosphere for students and families.

"We work to reduce all inappropriate and improper student behavior by emphasizing a culture of respect, responsibility and resiliency, using a framework of prevention, response and follow-up," she said. "We work with communities to promote understanding, and investigate incidents to ensure student safety."

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