A large fight prompted by “racially insensitive remarks” broke out Wednesday at Pahoa High on Hawaii island, leading to the arrests of seven students and sending a security guard to the hospital, officials said.

A school resource officer contacted police at 10:20 a.m. “after a large group of students started arguing,” the Hawaii Police Department said in a press release. The officer and other staff tried to break up the fight, at which point the security guard was “assaulted by five male students,” the release states.

The injured guard, 20, was taken to Hilo Medical Center, where he was treated and released.

The Puna school was locked down for about an hour because of the fight, and 20 students were suspended, said police Capt. Scott Amaral.

Hawaii County Police Department building in Pahoa. Photo: Tim Wright
Hawaii Police Department officers responded to a call from Pahoa High and Intermediate’s school resource officer. Tim Wright/Civil Beat/2021

Those arrested included four male students aged 13 to 17 accused of assaulting a school official and two female students ages 16 to 17 who were accused of disorderly conduct. Officials didn’t provide details about the students who were suspended.

An 18-year-old male, Advin Nakashima, who was identified because he is an adult, was charged with assault in the second degree for allegedly attacking a school official, with his bail set at $2,000, according to the press release.

The four juvenile males were sent to the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility on Oahu pending an initial hearing while the two female students were released back to their parents.

Amaral said the fight escalated from a dispute starting between the two girls. The altercations were “spurred by racially insensitive remarks,” state Department of Education spokeswoman Nanea Kalani said.

“Counselors and staff are available for any student who needs to talk about what they witnessed or to process their feelings regarding this incident,” she said, adding that “assaults, fights and physical violence are taken very seriously and are investigated thoroughly.”

“Class A student conduct offense penalties range from detention to dismissal with the possibility of arrest and serious criminal charges,” she said.

As of 2020-21, Pahoa High and Intermediate, serving grades seven to 12, enrolled 670 students, with Native Hawaiians making up 44% of the student body, Filipinos 15% and Micronesians 7%. The school also is among the state’s poorest, with a median household income of $39,300, according to a school profile.

Amaral said the school will review any available surveillance footage and take additional action against other students if needed.

School resource officers are employed by the police department and work to smooth over school disturbances before a situation gets out of hand. One is assigned to Pahoa and another at Keaau Middle, Amaral said.

Pahoa High and Intermediate has faced concerns about student violence before. Several fights broke out on campus in December 2015. A 13-year-old male student also allegedly threatened on social media to bring a weapon to school in November, according to local news reports.

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