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Leilehua High disciplines mask policy offenders

A “zero tolerance” mask policy went into effect Thursday at Leilehua High School in an apparent crackdown on students not following the school’s mask mandate.

“This is now the eighth week of school and we continue to have students that do not understand the importance of proper mask wearing on campus,” Principal Jason Nakamoto wrote in a letter to parents Tuesday. But in a follow-up note, sent to parents the next day, he apologized for the tone of the initial letter and suggested offenders may be offered a bit more leniency.

The first letter said, among other things, that if students are seen with their masks below their nose, they would be cited and face detention, with greater punishment for repeat offenders.

“Pulling up their mask when they see an adult will be too late,” the letter said. “They have had seven weeks of warnings, it is now time for them to be responsible.”

Nakamoto struck a softer tone in the subsequent letter. He wrote: “Disciplinary action may be issued to students that blatantly disregard the rules or are disrespectful towards staff. Any potential disciplinary action will be handled on a case-by-case basis.” The principal also clarified that students are allowed to take mask breaks away from others.

“If they need a mask break during class, they just need to inform their teacher and they can step outside. During non-instruction time, they may step away from others to take a mask break. Students can pull down their mask to drink or eat and put it back up if they are walking around. If they are seated and eating or drinking, they may keep their mask off.”

Nakamoto explained that the policy seeks to cut down on the number of students who have missed school due to being deemed a close contact. According to state Department of Education records, 38 cases have been linked to Leilehua this school year. That’s enough to put the Wahiawa school just inside the department’s top 10 schools with COVID- 19 cases.

It’s unclear how many students were disciplined for noncompliance with the mask policy Thursday. Nakamoto could not be reached for comment. DOE spokeswoman Nanea Kalani noted that the policy is Leilehua’s and not one implemented departmentwide.

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