On Monday, the ACLU called for the Honolulu Police Department (HPD), the state Department of Education (DOE), and other officials to take action after a 10-year-old Black girl at Honowai Elementary School in Waipahu, HI was arrested last year “for drawing a picture that upset a parent.”
Tamara Taylor, the student’s mother, says “her daughter’s constitutional rights– as well as her own– were violated,” according to the ACLU. They also note that the child is Black and disabled.
Last year, school officials received a complaint from a parent about a drawing that Taylor’s daughter and other students sketched after another student was allegedly bullying Taylor’s daughter. Upon this “parent’s insistence, school officials called police to the school where officers questioned Taylor’s daughter, arrested her, and transported her to the police station without alerting her mother. Taylor also went to the school and was falsely imprisoned when school staff and police prevented her leaving two rooms she was confined to,” Hawaii Public Radio reports.
Taylor wrote a grievance letter to the school and the superintendent a couple days after the incident occurred, a portion of which read: “Although I was at Honowai Elementary, I was not told that my daughter was removed from the premises, handcuffed in front of staff and her peers, placed into a squad car and taken away. I was stripped of my rights as a parent and my daughter was stripped of her right to protection and representation as a minor. There was no understanding of diversity, African-American culture and the history of police involvement with African-American youth. My daughter and I are traumatized from these events and I’m disheartened to know that this day will live with my daughter forever.”
The ACLU and the family’s attorney argue that the minor’s rights were unjustly violated “when she was detained and questioned without her mom [and] handcuffed and brought to jail without being charged with a crime.” Hawaii ACLU Legal Director Wookie Kim said, “That’s just straight up wrong…And there’s nothing that condones or justifies that.”
“This is about a 10-year-old Black girl who was arrested and there was no reason to believe that she was violent…She didn’t bring any weapons to school, she didn’t make any explicit threats to anyone,” adds Mateo Caballero, an attorney for the student and her mother.
In their demands for change to prevent future recurrences, the ACLU wrote a letter to HPD, the DOE, and the state attorney general’s office calling for HPD and the DOE to “adopt policies like forbidding staff to call police unless imminent threat of significant harm is presented and to consult with a school counselor before calling.”
In addition, “[t]he ACLU wants the city and state to pay $500,000 in damages to the child and her mother.”
The letter also stated that, “[t]he mother and daughter were singled out because of their race, both perceived and treated as ‘more dangerous,’ less rational, and less worthy of respect for their rights than the non-Black students and parents involved.”
Letter recipients—police, DOE officials, and the state AG’s office—have until November 8, 2021 to respond. The attorney general’s office told the AP that they are working with the Department of Education to respond to the letter by the ACLU’s Nov. 8 deadline.