I. Background:

Hawai'i is a nondiscrimination state. It is illegal to evict, fire, or refuse to hire anyone for being gay or lesbian. There is one out gay state appointed official. Hawai'i is a multicultural, multireligious state in which the hallmark of societal interaction has been mutual acceptance. These are important themes upon which Hawai'ians pride themselves. These, added to Americans traditional emphasis on fairness, can be winning themes for educational equity work.

The overall feeling after corresponding with several individuals in the state's Department of Education is one of eagerness to please and to provide one with the most information available to them. Through our correspondence Hawai'i's education officials have never once made light of our requests; rather, they have treated us with respect, providing earnest and prompt attention to every request. Officials of this state have agreed that educational equity for gay, lesbian and bisexual students is a top priority challenge facing all educators.

Yet, in Feb. 1994, a Project 10 program was dropped from Pahoa High on the Big Island of Hawai'i as a result of right-wing attack and the backing down of the principal.

The regular state legislative session runs from Jan-17 to May-03.

To contact the Governor, call or write Governor Linda Lingle, Executive Chambers, Hawaii State Capitol, Honolulu, HI 96813; Phone: (808) 586-0034 Fax: (808) 586-0006 or go to her Home Page at


All Hawai'ian state legislators can be written to as follows:

Legislator XYZ
Hawaii State Capitol, Honolulu, HI 96813

II. Education Specific Information:

Hawaii has a "public accommodations" statute which *may* be applicable to anti-LGBT abuse in public high schools.
[See HRS 368-1].

You may locate any school or school district in your state by going to the following search engine:

American School Directory


Hawai'i has some information on its educational system on the World Wide Web. Point your browser to:


Non-Discrimination Policy

"The Department of Education shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, sex, age, disability, marital status, assignment of income for child support obligations, arrest and court records, National Guard Participation, or sexual orientation as prohibited by federal and state laws.

"Employees who believe that they have been subjected to discrimination prohibited under civil rights laws may seek redress through the Department's Civil Rights Complaint Procedure for Certificated Employees or file a complaint with the appropriate federal or state civil rights agency."

- Non-Discrimination Policy Memo
Herman Aizawa, Ph.D., Superintendent
State of Hawaii Department of Education
P.O. Box 2360
Honolulu, HI 96804
(Management & Compliance Office - 808.586.3322)

According to former State Superintendent Dr. Herman M. Aizawa, "Our policy calls for materials evaluation at the state level. This is coordinated by our content specialists. We are currently [March 1995] reviewing our materials selection policy and will be presenting proposed changes to our policy-making body, the State Board of Education, which must approve all changes." As of this writing, the final decision as to whether textbook and curriculum adoptions will be state or local decisions is still up in the air, as is the timeline for same.

From the Superintendents "vision statement" [emphasis added]:

"To align and support site-based, shared decision making, I will continue to decentralize the state and district offices. I have requested, however, that the Ke Au Hou plan be reviewed. This review is not so much from the standpoint of flattening the system, or repositioning people from here to there, but to assure that support services and resources are provided to and controlled by the schools, so that valuable services don't fall through the cracks. I will require objective scrutiny and informed judgements of how this decentralization will occur, where it will be done best, and who should do it. With this approach, we will maximize the system's resources to better serve students and schools, while maintaining equity for all.

"Student performance standards are the basis for designing curriculum and instructional programs. The Hawaii Commission on Performance Standards will complete its recommended content and performance standards by July. The BOE will then begin to review, modify, and implement those standards. [N.B. The P.E.R.S.O.N. Project recommends getting involved in this process ASAP to ensure inclusive standards]. I have already taken the initial steps to request that the National Education Standards and Improvement Council certify Hawaii's content and performance standards. This council is part of Goals 2000: The Educate America Act, the national education reform bill recently enacted by Congress. We are asking the council to review whether our standards are comparable to or higher in rigor and quality to the national standards, feasible in terms of sufficient resources available to all schools, adequate to prepare students to meet world-class standards, and effective in applying students' knowledge and skills toward solving real-world problems."

III. Current context (for updates since 1996, be sure to check out the action alerts at http://www.youth.org/loco/PERSONProject/Alerts/States/Hawaii/list.html)

Hawai'i is the site of an immensely important legal struggle with national implications. The specific issue has to do with legal recognition of same-sex marriages. In 1995 this was the focus of most activist attention. Those interested in educational issues may need to hold off until this issue is resolved, at least within the state, probably by a Hawai'ian Supreme Court decision by the end of 1995. The good news for educational activists is that, thanks to organizing around the marriage case, there is a strong state-wide network of fired-up folks. They should be primed for another issue after the conclusion of the marriage battle, and education would be a suitable segue. Indeed, religious fundamentalists have already raised the specter that public school children would soon be forced to learn that they can form a family with two daddies or two mommies if same-sex marriage is legalized.

In part as a response to the marriage struggle, in April 1996, the Hawai't State Teacher's Association's annual convention passed a resolution opposing any efforts to restrict anyone's civil rights.

from the PFLAG-Hilo newsletter, Feb., 2001:

4. Hawaii School Implements First Sexual Orientation Program:
PFLAG Hilo President Robert Aitken, as well as members Tom Aitken & Lindsey Trout, attended a meeting at Pahoa High and Intermediate school on 2/8/2001 at which officials of the Department of Education (DOE) and the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission (HCRC) explained the program they have finally implemented to educate staff and students about sexual orientation issues. The program resulted from the settlement of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission complaint Tom Aitken filed against the state in August of 1996 (details at <http://www.lambdalegal.org/cgi-bin/pages/documents/record?record=713>).

The school is contracting well-known and competent facilitators from NCBI (National Coalition Building Institute) to make a presentation to every student in grades 7-9 during their language arts period. While the settlement requires a one-time-only presentation, the program marks the first time the DOE in Hawaii has officially implemented a program about sexual orientation, paving the way for sanctioned support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and hopefully intersex students at Pahoa and in schools throughout our diverse state.
5. Task Force on Ch. 19:
After a harrowing year of lobbying, the The Board of Education approved language in The School Disciplinary Code (Chapter 19 of the Hawaii State Statutes) protecting students from harassment, including harassment based on sexual orientation in November of 2000. Now the BOE is convening a Task Force on Chapter 19 to assure appropriate implementation of the new policy. Our own Carolyn Golojuch (PFLAG Oahu President), as well as Nancy Kern (DOH & Coordinator of the Safe Schools Coalition), and Tracey La Gardino and Nancy Roberts (Civil Unions - Civil Rights, http://StopGabbard.com and every demonstration for the last few months!!) have been appointed, so we can be assured that our children will have brilliant advocates.

IV. Resources:






There much in this manual about how to access and utilize news media.

Why should you care about news media?

This is such a high profile issue that inevitably it becomes front page news, whether you wanted it to or not. You have to be ready to handle the media, and it is best to be proactive and put your side of the story out there first.

Get to know your area media people. Make sure you are always accessible to them. Make sure you provide them with accurate information. Be helpful to them, giving them story ideas and leads, background briefings, etc. Be persistent and polite. Remember, media are one of the most pervasive influences in our culture...they can make or break your efforts. Use them to teach the public at large, to organize, to develop allies.

Never let media inaccuracies go unaddressed...the slightest misuse of a word can change a whole story and, if let go, can ultimately ruin all your efforts.

We have provided statewide print media because the orientation of this manual is for systematic change at the statewide level in educational systems. Many smaller media outlets use wire service reports or stories from the major newspapers in their state or area. Thus, you will find that stories big and small bounce up and down the media ladder within a state. It is important to monitor media statewide, since stories, whether good or bad, spread in this multiplier fashion.

Even more important, from the standpoint of your being PROACTIVE, you will want to get the jump on the opposition by sending your releases out by fax and email to as many media as possible.

For important tips on using media and media skills, please refer to APPENDIX VI of our organizing handbook at


For YOUR state's mainstream newspapers, go to


For a searchable database for US local TV stations, go to





The state main queer paper, a good source of publicity, volunteers, and networking information, is The Gay Community News.

Tropical Wire (Gay and Lesbian newspaper on Maui)
PO Box 277#134, Kihei HI 96753; managing editor: Cheryl Ann White-Butler. email= cstein@maui.net. Tropical Wire is a monthly publication of articles, ideas, health tips, stories, and information and is currently the only publication of its kind in a population of over 100,000.

Copyright 1995, The P.E.R.S.O.N. Project.

Return to the Handbook Table of Contents

Last updated 7/25/2002 by Jean Richter, richter@eecs.Berkeley.EDU