State Department of Education officials also failed to provide a safe learning environment for special education students, according to a lawsuit.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges that a special education teacher at Kaiser High School sexually abused and molested a 14-year-old student over a period of several months.

The student’s parents say the state Department of Education transferred their son to a new school without consulting them and ignored their request for a different campus.

The lawsuit also includes a class-action allegation that the DOE has repeatedly failed to take into account parents’ concerns and input when making accommodations for special education students and has placed several of these students in unsafe environments.

Leah Yim said the nurse who saw her son at Kaiser began filing complaints against the teacher, Tyler Kochi, as early as June, when the boy first began attending Kaiser High School. Yim added that she and her husband only found out about the allegations when the nurse contacted them on Sept. 27, saying she was doing so against instructions from her employers not to reach out to them.

DOE spokeswoman Nanea Kalani said Kochi remains employed by the department. She added that the department wouldn’t comment on pending litigation.

According to the lawsuit, the DOE decided to transfer the student to Kalani High School, despite his parents’ concerns with the placement. (Blaze Lovell/CivilBeat/2020)

The parents, Leah and Jeremy Yim, contacted the school the next day to report the alleged abuse. They said they also filed a complaint with the Honolulu Police Department.

According to the lawsuit, the Yims asked the DOE to move their son to his previous school, Kamiloiki Elementary, where they believed he would have a positive learning environment, but the department ended up placing him at Kalani High School.

“We have a school that’s had this child there for several years, that’s taken very good care of him. It’s just two blocks from their house,” said Eric Seitz, the Yim family lawyer, about Kamiloiki Elementary.

Seitz said he plans on filing a temporary restraining order against the DOE that would allow the boy to attend Kamiloiki Elementary until the court hears the case.

The boy, who is identified in the lawsuit as E.M.Y., has not attended school since he left Kaiser High School in late September. Yim said she quit her job in order to take care of him.

“This has absolutely wrecked our family, in every sense,” Yim said. “Our children should have the right to choose the school of their choice, within reason, where they are safe, secure, and will be supported to receive their services, without any question of abuse.”

The Yim family serves as the class representative at this time, Seitz said, but he plans to add several other families as representatives in the future.

A hearing date for the lawsuit has not yet been scheduled.

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

Read the lawsuit here:

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