First-term lawmaker faces backlash for video questioning pride flags at an ʻEwa school
A video of freshman Republican state Rep. Elijah Pierick calling on the community to contact the ʻEwa Makai Middle School principal after he noticed a pride flag outside her office surfaced last week, leading to criticism from some lawmakers and organizations.
Pierick stated several positive comments in his video, including how the programs and facilities are at the "cutting edge when it comes to education for our schools."
The video shows Pierick praising Principal Kim Sanders for her decorative office, which showcases inclusive symbols for students to feel welcome there. He then switches to single out one particular decoration: the LGBTQ+ flag outside her office.
"There's one object I want to point out and that is the LGBTQ flag outside of her office and in different offices around the school," Pierick began.
"Are these the kinds of concepts and lifestyles we want to be conveying to our middle school students every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday all year round? Or should this be a conversation geared towards the home?" Pierick said in the video.
Pierick encouraged his viewers to contact Sanders directly, putting up her phone number and email address on the screen.
Over the past week, the post generated nearly 100 comments — most of which criticized the representative. Many accused Pierick of being ignorant and discriminatory to the LGBTQ+ community. One person even asked if his account was hacked, citing that the word "principal" in the video was spelled wrong.
Pierick represents parts of West Oʻahu from Royal Kunia to Waipahu — but ʻEwa Makai Middle School is outside of his district.
The school is in the district of fellow Republican Sen. Kurt Fevella, who worked as a custodian at ʻEwa Makai before he was elected into office.
"Elijah, I’m disappointed in you. Big time. You need to do the right thing — apologize. Because you are not a leader of this community," Favella responded in a Facebook Live video.
Favella mentioned Hawaiʻi's high teenage suicide rate, and pleaded with people watching the stream to support anyone who could be negatively affected by the video.
"I can't even call him a clown cuz that's disrespecting the clowns. So I'm just gonna call him rubbish. I hope I'm not offending Oscar on Sesame Street," Fevella said. He urged people to vote Pierick out when he is up for reelection in two years.
The Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association president Osa Tui Jr. responded to Pierick’s post and stated that "there is no place for bigotry on the islands."
"Elected officials should not be using their position to shame and humiliate a whole class of people, trying to erase their existence from our schools," Tui Jr. said.
The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement said Friday that Pierick will not be allowed to participate in the Prince Kūhiō Parade in Kapolei on Saturday because of his criticism of the school's "support of inclusivity for the LGBTQ+ community."
“The LGBTQ+ and mahu community is an essential part of the fabric of Hawai‘i that we all know and cherish,” CNHA CEO Kūhiō Lewis, also chair of the parade, said in a statement. Mahu refers to someone with dual male and female spirits and a mixture of gender traits.
“Rep. Pierick’s commentary is hurtful, not aligned to the cultural values that we work to promote, and will serve as a distraction to honoring a true leader of Hawai‘i, Prince Kūhiō. Rep. Pierick will be removed from the parade line up. We look forward to educating him on the significance of the mahu and LGBTQ+ culture in our community," Lewis added.