2007 ACLU Hawai'i Youth Award Winners Selected
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
HONOLULU – Since 2003, the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai’i’s Guardians of Liberty & Justice Youth Award has honored the work of young civil libertarians who have braved adversity to stand up for a constitutional principle. The awards ceremony is Saturday, July 7th, in the chambers of the Hawai’i State Supreme Court, with special guest presenter the Honorable Steven H. Levinson, Associate Justice of the Hawai’i Supreme Court. Public seating is very limited, call (808)522-5900 for information.
The grand prize of $1000 and a two-year ACLU membership goes to Daniel Coakley of Kapa’au. While attending Kohala High School, Daniel attempted to confront his school’s uniform policy through his teachers, counselors, administrators, student government and finally the Department of Education (DOE). Although a uniform waiver policy existed within the DOE administrative framework, it took 2 years of persistent inquiry for Daniel to be told about it. Daniel’s concerns were met by his school not with accommodation or information, but with punishment. He was repeatedly given detention, barred from his prom and denied extracurricular activities. As a result of Daniel’s actions, students and teachers at Kohala High are now more aware of the waiver rule. Daniel’s teacher said that his protest “had a huge impact (on the administration)” and caused a “ripple effect” of change. The ACLU of Hawai’i believes that when a school chooses to enforce uniforms, it must provide a waiver option, with waiver information clearly communicated to students and parents and applied in a fair and consistent manner. Daniel’s activism underscores the importance of better school-level awareness of and cooperation with the uniform waiver policy.
The second prize of $500 and a two year ACLU membership goes to Flora Oh of Kalani High School, who was the organizing catalyst for a spontaneous demonstration at her school in response to a DOE decision to reassign the school’s popular and respected principal. Flora began demonstrating upon hearing the news – without stopping to question if she would get punished or suspended for doing so. Her demonstration was quickly joined by students and even some teachers and staff, and was covered by local media. Flora and her supporters gathered over 500 signatures in hopes of convincing the DOE to change its mind. “The ACLU is inspired by Flora’s use of peaceful protest and petition to make the students’ voices heard. In a time where many students assume they have no constitutionally protected rights at school, Flora used her conscience and her constitutional freedoms to the fullest,” said Esther Solomon, Chair of the 2007 Youth Award Committee.
The Guardians of Liberty and Justice Youth Award is underwritten by generous support from Dr. Leslie Wilbur.
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