Open letter from Chronicles Brawl school administrator, asks the community to help fix what caused it

In an open letter to the community, a vice-principal at Pāhoa Secondary and Middle School described last week’s fight at his school where seven students were arrested and 20 suspended as a sad and unfortunate event sparked by epithets racial discrimination towards a group of children making themselves felt. as if they didn’t belong.

At no time during the Wednesday, January 25, ‘scrum’ that forced the school into lockdown around 10:20 a.m. did Brandon Gallagher, the school’s vice-principal, write the letter as an individual and not as a representative. from school. , felt he was not safe.

“As I have been someone who has continuously worked with our students in this disenfranchised community with love, no student has attacked me during the melee,” Gallagher wrote in a letter this weekend shared with several state media, including Big Island Now. “My experience was not unique and was the experience of nearly all of our staff who were on the outside to help during the situation. I stood before students with fists raised and mouths calling for a fight and I was able to get in touch with them to keep them away from others and areas without ever suffering any reprisals.

The state Department of Education confirmed last week that the fight was sparked by racially insensitive remarks. The school resource worker was taken to hospital where he was treated and discharged the same day. A Hawaii Police Department spokeswoman said Tuesday, Feb. 1, the officer was back at school and unavailable for comment.

Of the seven people arrested, one was an adult. The grown man, identified as 18-year-old Advin Nakashima, has been charged with second-degree assault on a school official and his bond has been set at $2,000. Nakashima, who did not respond to a Facebook post seeking comment, has posted bond, according to the Hawai’i County District Attorney’s Office. His initial appearance is scheduled for 1 p.m. Feb. 24 in Hilo District Court.


Police also arrested four young boys, aged 13 to 17, for assaulting a school official; and two underage female students, ages 16 to 17, for disorderly conduct.


Gallagher said in the letter that the students were angry at being called “cockroaches” online. He said in the letter that his intention was not to absolve anyone of anything, but to give the community context for how something like what happened could happen.

“Now imagine for a moment that you are part of a community in Hawai’i where people generally refer to you, your family, your neighbors, and anyone else easily identifiable by appearance, clothing, and language, as ‘cockroaches’ or other racially motivated epithets,” he wrote. “Not only would your developing sense of identity be sullied by others’ hatred of you, but the messages in your community would seem to argue that you don’t belong here.”

It was against this backdrop, Gallagher wrote, that the large group of students moved around campus “in an angry and charged state of mind.”


The campus lockdown was called quickly and the majority of students followed instructions and stayed safe in classrooms, he said, when the fight broke out.

“The feeling then and after was not a feeling of fear or anger towards these students, it was a feeling of deep sadness for what was happening and would happen to these students. Sadness for how the actions of this day, which were prompted by the words of others, would serve to solidify the negative opinions of the Pāhoa children, the children of poverty, our community, but more unfortunately, the community cultural background from which these students come,” Gallagher wrote.

Hawaiian Police Chief Paul Paul K. Ferreira told Big Island Now that the school’s resource officer handled the situation well with the help of school officials and other law enforcement officers. patrol who responded.

SROs are not stationed at all schools on the island of Hawaii. There are eight SROs stationed at Hilo Intermediate, Waiākea Elementary, Honoka’a Elementary, Kea’au Middle School, Pāhoa, Konawaena Middle School, Kealakehe Middle School, and Waimea Middle School.

Gallagher did not return a phone call or email Tuesday seeking comment. He is listed as Vice Principal of Middle School on the school’s website. He said he was sorry to see someone suffer physical injuries as a result of the fight and joined the community in hopes of never having to see such things again. He wrote that he hopes the island can learn from the incident and work to correct the issues that led to the split.

“The only fear I have is that we will fail to address the societal norms that have placed these children in a state of despair. A desperation that is so severe that they have risen up against anyone they considered like another person holding them back because they were alive in Hawai’i,” he wrote. “These children bear and will continue to bear the consequences of their actions. create a world where children do not see whistleblowing as the only viable option. This problem will not be solved by going after children or the communities they come from. This problem will be solved when we, as a community, “We will continue to find meaningful ways to uplift each other in this beautiful home we share in the world’s most remote island chain. Together, we can and will change the narrative for the better.”

Martha K. Merrill