The recent decision to cancel a Waianae-Castle match over safety concerns is just the latest chapter in a saga that goes back at least 60 years.

In her five years driving students to and from football matches, Thelma “Momi” Kaneakua had seen her fair share of flying rocks and violent behavior. But the Kaiser-Farrington game at Aloha Stadium was different. 

The first thing she saw was a flying bottle. Then she heard another bus driver yelling “fight.” She told the students on her bus to hide their heads and tried to reverse the bus, but it was blocked by an angry crowd. The next thing she knew, a teenager yelling “Farrington is No. 1” had smashed the driver’s side window of the bus with a large piece of wood, fracturing her shoulder. 

“We’ve been stoned before but this was the worst stoning we’d ever had,” Kaneakua told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. 

Students rioting after the 1977 game at Aloha Stadium pulled up boards that had been used to support young trees near the stadium in the melee, which sent 12 people to the hospital. (Screenshot/

The 1977 riot at Aloha Stadium lasted 20 minutes. When it was over, eight students, two bus drivers and a parent were in the hospital. One of the teens — a horn player in the Kaiser band — needed surgery for a skull fracture.

The incident may have been the most violent high school football fight in Hawaii history, but it was not the first and definitely not the last. 

The decision by school leaders last week to cancel a Waianae-Castle football game over safety concerns caused a great deal of consternation on social media, including an often-voiced worry that teens today are somehow lacking in the discipline of previous generations. 

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But Hawaii’s newspaper archives show the state has a long history of grappling with school violence, including violence centered around football rivalries. 

Past incidents haven’t been confined to any one community or school. Kamehameha Schools, Kaiser, Castle and Waianae have all had their share of unsavory incidents in the past. 

It took decades and a wide range of tactics by school leaders to get to the point where safety problems at games are a rarity rather than a norm.

Students Expect Routine Violence

The rock-throwing after games seems to have started in the 1960s. Or maybe it was sooner. Public school officials seemed hesitant to publicize the violence between fans of rival football teams, so many of the incidents didn’t make the news, a reader of the Honolulu Advertiser complained in a 1969 letter to the editor. 

In 1967, the athletic director at Waianae High School told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that it was fortunate a recent game at Kahuku was a tie. Everyone was satisfied and there wasn’t a single fight, he said.

“It used to be that every time we played at Kahuku, they threw rocks at our bus afterward. And then when Kahuku played here, they got rocks thrown at them,” he said.

Public attention to violence at football games increased in 1975, the same year a student at Waipahu Intermediate was killed in a fight on campus. (Screenshot/

The worst, he said, was when the team played at Waialua. “They have this overhead walkway just when you get to town. They stand up there, and man, they drop boulders on your bus when you go underneath.”

In 1968, a Campbell student was injured by a rock thrown at a bus after a Campbell-Radford game and suffered a permanent eye injury.

By 1969, teens hurling rocks at buses after high school football matches was so routine that players were advised to keep their helmets on and crouch below the window on the ride home from the games.

Owners of a private bus company that provided school transportation grew increasingly frustrated over the risk to their employees and vehicles in the mid-’70s.(Screenshot/

In 1975, the owner of a private bus company contracted by the school district, said football-goers throwing rocks at buses continued to be a significant issue. Some 20 windows had been broken the previous year.

“Is prep violence on the rise here?” the Star-Bulletin asked that year, after a game between Kalaheo High and Leilehua in Wahiawa. Members of the band were getting ready to board the bus when a large can was hurled through the air, breaking a window and sending shards of glass into the hair of a school chaperone carrying a baby in her arms. 

No one saw who threw the can “so all the police could do was escort us off the grounds,” the bus driver said. 

Addressing The Problem

School violence — not just at football games but on campuses generally — became a focal point of public attention in 1975 after a 14-year-old student was killed in a fight at Waipahu Intermediate.

As pressure mounted to address fights and vandalism at games and on campuses generally, state education leaders came up with a bevy of proposals.

One idea was to teach transcendental meditation to students. Another suggestion — one of many in a package of proposals in 1975 aimed at reducing school violence — was to reduce the size of schools. Larger schools made more sense economically, but smaller schools seemed “less prone to violence,” the head of the state Commission on Children and Youth said. 

Students and teachers varied in 1977 on how to address problems at football games, but many of their ideas would sound familiar today: teaching mindfulness, suspending students, playing games without audiences. (Screenshot/

Other suggestions included special training for students, security patrols and a cultural studies program that would run from kindergarten all the way through high school to “foster respect between students and reduce racial incidents.”

Just a year later, the district dropped plans for mediation classes after religious leaders in the islands protested any plans to bring “secular mind disciplines” into public schools, the Honolulu Advertiser wrote.

After the 1977 riot at Aloha Stadium, education officials increased security patrols. State lawmakers also convened multiple committees and commissioned studies to look at the cause of crime on campuses.

By 1978, every public school in the state was required to have a plan that addressed safety, security and campus beautification. The Department of Education also contracted with a private security firm to provide night patrols for 42 schools and “security counselors” for part-time work at a dozen schools deemed high-risk. They also trained nearly 200 safety and security aids and created a Civil Defense school surveillance program on Oahu where volunteers checked on schools at night.

Violence at athletic matches wasn’t always confined to public schools, though. In 1982, a fight between players on the field at a St. Louis and Kamehameha championship match “triggered a near riot” with at least four individual fights breaking out at Aloha Stadium at the same time.

“At least a dozen fans also came on the field, some of them throwing blows, before coaches and security people finally brought the fight under control,” the Star-Bulletin wrote.

School officials pledged to increase security at football games once again in the 1980s. (Screenshot/

For a few years there seemed to be a lull in news reports about violence at high school athletic meets. But in the early 1980s, a spate of rock attacks resumed.

In 1985, a student from the Castle football team was taken to the ER and treated for glass in both eyes after the bus he was riding was struck by nearly a dozen rocks after a game against Farrington. That same year, three Waianae High students were injured by rock attacks in Nanakuli on their way home from a game at Aloha Stadium. A similar attack was launched in Nanakuli at a bus carrying Kailua High School’s team — even though the team was escorted by three police cars.

Police posted in the Honolulu Advertiser asking for help finding witnesses for two bus attacks in 1986, one after a Castle-Farrington game and the other after a Waianae-Nanakuli match. (Screenshot/

After the 1985 incidents in Nanakuli, the state school superintendent called for the Nanakuli football team to forfeit its games for the rest of the season and for the team to have to play all its games the following year during daylight hours.

That seemed to mark the start of harsher sanctions on teams from schools where students were identified as the rock-throwers. In 1987, the Oahu Interscholastic Athletic Association ruled that Kahuku High School would have to play the rest of its home games during daylight hours after students were caught throwing stones at Pearl City High School buses.

Soon after, news reports about bus stonings slowed. So significant was the halt in behavior that in 1993 after a “hail of rocks” hit Kuhuku buses, the Honolulu Advertiser wrote an editorial calling for such incidents to be urgently addressed — before the hard work of educators and principals to address the behavior was undone.

When two Waianae football players were taken to the hospital in 2012 after a rock was thrown through their bus window, it was a rare event — and a far cry from where things were in 1982, when a Honolulu Star-Bulletin headline proclaimed: “No Solution Seen in Attacks on Buses.”

“Ironically, football is the sport that brings in the money to run the other sports at the schools,” the paper wrote. “It’s also the sport that apparently arouses the high emotions as it’s the only one for which the schools hire police escorts for the buses.”

Civil Beat’s education reporting is supported by a grant from Chamberlin Family Philanthropy.

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