Neighbor Island Edition By Ben Kobayashi Advertiser Courts Write
The state must pay $860,451 for not adequately investigating sexual abuse allegations against a Mokapu Elementary School teacher who later molested two students at the Kaneohe School, a state judge ruled yesterday in what may be the first judgment of its kind in Hawaii.
Circuit Judge Sabrina McKenna awarded the money damages to the two girls and their parents in a civil case. McKenna ruled that the Department of Education was negligent for failing to conduct a thorough investigation when Lawrence Norton was first accused of molesting a student in 1991.
If the department had done so, the two girls, ages 10 and 11 at the time, would never have been molested by Norton in 1994 and 1995, McKenna said.
Mark Davis, the lawyer for the two families, hailed the decision not only for its award to the families, but also because the court outlined what he called a “primer” for how the public schools should handle sexual misconduct allegations against teachers.
He said that as far as he knows, McKenna’s decision is the first in Hawaii that holds the state liable for a teacher molesting students.