The mother of a 10-year-old girl is suing the City and County of Honolulu and the Hawaii State Department of Education after her daughter was arrested in school over a drawing.

The civil rights lawsuit was filed by lawyer Mateo Caballero and the ACLU on behalf of the girl, identified only as N.B., and her mother Tamara Taylor on Friday. It also names three HPD officers and the vice principal of Honowai Elementary School as defendants.

According to the complaint, N.B. was arrested with excessive force at the Waipahu school on Jan. 10, 2020 after another student’s mother saw the drawing and demanded that the school call the police. The lawsuit also alleges that N.B. was discriminated against because she is Black and has a disability — attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“As a proximate cause of such discrimination, Plaintiffs suffered and continue to suffer emotional suffering, psychological injury, and trauma,” the complaint says. “Plaintiffs continue to experience fear, distrust, and anxiety regarding law enforcement officers and attending school.”

Honowai Elementary School cafeteria with special UV-C lights hanging from ceiling.
The incident that led to N.B.’s arrest occurred on Jan. 10, 2020 at Honowai Elementary School, according to the lawsuit. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

The lawsuit also alleges N.B. suffered physical injuries, including on her wrists from handcuffs that were too tight.

The incident made national headlines late last year after Caballero and the ACLU published a letter that detailed the allegations and demanded changes be made to the way the Honolulu Police Department responds to schools. The demand letter, which was published on Oct. 18, also requested $500,000 in damages and gave the city until Nov. 8 to respond.

On Nov. 8, Interim Police Chief Rade Vanic penned a written response to the letter that said that the drawing was of “a girl holding and pointing a gun with a severed head at her feet” with the words “Stand down B**ch! Yo F**kin days are over NOW” and “Fake to me And DED.”

In his letter, Vanic backed the department’s response to the school and said that the drawing constituted “a threat of significant harm to someone.”

Vanic also admonished the ACLU and Caballero for claiming the officers acted with a racial bias.

“It is NOT motivated by race,” he wrote. “It is very unfortunate that you and your clients have injected race in this matter. The incident and the response were not racially motivated. The HPD does not and will not respond to 911 calls or law enforcement intervention and service based on race.”

The DOE also published a response to Caballero and the ACLU’s demand letter on Nov. 8 saying that DOE employees did not falsely arrest or imprison either N.B. or her mother, did not use any force on N.B., and did not discriminate against either the girl or her mother based on race or disability.

The response, signed by DOE’s Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi, said that the department would not be acceding to any of the demands made in Caballero and the ACLU’s letter.






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