Hawaii teacher violates code of conduct with email about undocumented immigrants

HONOLULU, Hawaii (KHON) — A high school teacher in Hawaii is facing backlash after sending out an email that violated the Department of Education’s code of conduct.

The teacher used his work email to reply to a group message sent by a coworker offering information and links to address parents’ and students’ concerns about not coming to school for fear of being deported.

His email, which went out to all Campbell staff Wednesday morning, said: “This is another attack on the President over deportation. Their parents need to apply for immigration like everyone else. If they are here in the US illegally, I won’t teach them.”

The school’s principal was quick to address the teacher and all staff, sending out a response that said: “Please refrain from using DOE systems such as Lotus Notes to express political opinions or statements. In accordance with section E4 of the attached DOE Code of Conduct we are strictly prohibited from discriminating against, including harassing any student based on his/her national origin. If a student is enrolled and registered in our school we will service them to the best of our ability just like all other students.”

The DOE told us the teacher violated its code of conduct and Board of Education policies on anti-discrimination and electronic communication.

Nexstar affiliate KHON spoke with him by phone Wednesday. He declined an on-camera interview but said that the email was poorly worded and has been clarified with the rest of the staff. He said he meant to say “we can’t teach students that aren’t here.”

The teacher chose not to comment when asked about whether he faced disciplinary action. DOE spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz says it is up to the principal to decide what action to take.

“To see an email like that, not understanding what the individual who wrote it, where he was coming from, the language that was used is disheartening and concerning and we want to reiterate that the public school system, we service all students,” she said. “In this case, hopefully, lessons have been learned. The principal did remind his staff of the policies that are in existence and all teachers should adhere to those policies.”

The Hawaii State Teachers Association says it cannot comment on personnel matters, but strongly believes that every child has the right to an education, regardless of immigration status.

HSTA president Corey Rosenlee said in a statement: “All students should have the opportunity to learn without the fear and distress that result from our country’s changing immigration policies. Educators across the nation are witnessing the impact of this trauma on our students, their families and our communities firsthand. Our goal at HSTA is to ensure all students are treated fairly, supported in the classroom and receive a quality education.”

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