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By News Release @ 6:40 PM :: 2682 Views :: Education K-12, Labor

Rooms with a View: Conversations on identities and perspectives in Hawaiʻi’s school communities

Free virtual event aims to shift views, create space, and inspire change

News Release from HSTA, April 8, 2021

Rooms with a View, presented by HSTA’s Human and Civil Rights (HCR) Committee, aims to connect our community and bring awareness to issues of social and racial justice that impact our schools and students. We want to “make room” for these perspectives in our minds, classrooms, schools, communities, and families.

This two-hour event takes place Saturday, May 1, from 9 to 11 a.m., and is free and open to the public. Please join us as we work to shift views, create space, and inspire change.

We will open with remarks by our keynote speaker, community advocate Kim Coco Iwamoto. Participants will then be invited to join four breakout rooms, each with its own topic of discussion. After 45 minutes, the conversation will shift to new topics and prompts. Participants are free to come and go as they please.


Saturday, May 1

9–9:20 a.m. Welcome and keynote
9:20–10:05 a.m. Breakout session #1
10:05–10:50 a.m. Breakout session #2
10:50–11 a.m. Closing


Rooms and prompts

Prompts are subject to change. Swipe on mobile to view the full chart.

  Session #1 (9:20–10:05 a.m.) Session #2 (10:05–10:50 a.m.)
Room 1 How are we supporting LGBTQ youth in our classrooms and schools? Suicide prevention: What does it entail?
Room 2 How does institutional racism contribute to Hawaiʻi’s school-to-prison pipeline and how can we dismantle it? How can traditional place names revalue indigenous knowledge and wisdom to strengthen pride and identity in all of Hawaiʻi’s people?
Room 3 How are we supporting our Micronesian students in our classrooms and schools? How can schools innovate to create learning experiences that promote inclusivity and equity over systemic racism and classism?
Room 4 How does sex trafficking impact our schools and students? What is HSTA’s Human and Civil Rights Committee, and how can I get involved?


Why are these conversations important?

Several HCR Committee members share their thoughts below.

“When we take the time to understand the issues that affect our students as human beings, we become more effective in educating them as students.” — Jodi Kunimitsu, Maui High, State Chair

“For me, having conversations about inequity in schools is a way to educate myself and be better prepared to navigate discussions I have with my family, friends, and students about tough issues that need change. Discussion propels change.” — Elizabeth Sharrock, Keaʻau Middle, Hilo Chapter

“Standards, standardized tests, grading, and school discipline systems are all tools that can be used to further the learning of our haumāna, but too often the way they are used causes more harm than help. Could we look closely at how these tools can be systematically used to give everyone opportunities?” — Kit Brizuela Absalon, Kahuku High and Intermediate, Windward Chapter

“Talking openly about issues that affect our students now will help them grow as community members when they become adults. This might be uncomfortable for us; this is life for them.” — Daphna Ehrenhalt, Keaʻau Elementary, Hilo Chapter

“These conversations help us educators to value multiple perspectives, identities, and experiences in our multi-ethnic community so that we can continue to grow and strengthen compassion, empathy, and inclusivity in our classrooms, in our school communities, and in our public school system.” — Kapolei Kiʻili, King Kekaulike High, Maui Chapter

“We won’t have equity in education without initiating conversations with those who believe things need to change now. So these types of gatherings are a good starting point. Equity in education will not magically occur from attending a workshop or reading a book, it’s going to come from internal work and groups of educators clamoring to disrupt the ‘but it’s always been done this way’ mindset.” — Jill Yamasawa Fletcher, Kapolei High, Leeward Chapter

“Children need to feel seen, understood, and accepted. In creating these safe spaces for all students to learn, we must address issues of equity and inclusivity.” — Nicole Heinlein, ʻĪao Intermediate, Maui Chapter

About HSTA’s Human and Civil Rights Committee

HSTA’s HCR Committee is made up of volunteer member educators from across the state who work to support and nurture diversity and equity, encourage member engagement in racial and social justice issues to promote non-discriminatory spaces for educators and learners, and support members’ abilities to stand up for and speak out on behalf of students and their community. This work is in line with HSTA’s mission to “promote human and civil rights to support and nurture diversity in our muti-faceted community” and its value to “uphold high standards of truth and ethics.”

About Kim Coco Iwamoto

Kim Coco Iwamoto is a passionate social justice advocate. After attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, she landed her dream job in the fashion industry. During this time, she was discriminated against for being transgender and lost her job. This prompted her to change her life course and attend law school. In 1996, she participated in the first national Transgender Lobbying Day in Washington, D.C., and she has been fighting for changes in law to support equality, equity, and inclusivity ever since.

Kim Coco served on the Hawaiʻi State Board of Education from 2006 to 2011. Through her work on the Board and as a member of the Safe Schools Community Advisory Committee for the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education, she worked to create safer environments for LGBTQ+ students. She was also instrumental in shaping the HIDOE’s Guidance on Supports for Transgender Students and fought for laws and policies to better support students with disabilities.

In addition to her political and legal work, Kim Coco is a certified therapeutic foster parent and a volunteer guardian ad litem for Hawaiʻi’s First Circuit Family Court system.



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