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Punahou School fires teacher accused of sexual misconduct

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                                The Punahou Street entrance to Punahou School in Honolulu.


    The Punahou Street entrance to Punahou School in Honolulu.

Punahou School has fired a high school teacher after determining that accusations of sexual misconduct against him by a former student appear to be credible.

A graduate notified the school in late November about “sexual misconduct and other serious violations of school policy” that occurred several years ago while the student was enrolled in its academy, according to President Michael Latham.

“Upon learning of the allegations, Punahou immediately reported them to the Honolulu Police Department, as required by state law,” Latham wrote in a letter emailed to parents late Wednesday. “We also promptly suspended [him] from teaching, banned him from campus, prohibited any contact between him and students, and began our investigation of the allegations.”

The investigation included a lengthy interview of the graduate by the school’s attorneys and an investigator with substantial experience interviewing sexual abuse victims.

“All of the participants in the interview found our graduate’s report to be credible,” Latham wrote.

The teacher declined to be interviewed or cooperate with the investigation and was recently terminated, according to Latham.

“At the present time, we have no knowledge of any other allegations of sexual misconduct involving this teacher and any other current or former students,” Latham wrote. “We have, however, launched a full investigation to determine if there are any others.”

Punahou’s letter names the teacher but the Honolulu Star-Advertiser is not doing so because no charges or lawsuit have been filed against him. The graduate chose to remain anonymous, a request the school respected.

The case is not related to allegations of sexual abuse by coaches and teachers in the early to mid-2000s that were detailed in lawsuits filed last year.

Latham, who took the helm at Punahou in July 2019, said he was “heartbroken and deeply dismayed” about the new report of sexual misconduct and “we will continue to do our utmost to protect the students in our care.”

In his letter he described the components of a comprehensive student safety program the school has developed, including mandatory training, mandatory reporting of allegations of abuse, a Community Care Response Team and a 24-hour hotline.

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