Hawaii Schools Drop Online Platform After Objections Raised

Aug 27, 2020

Some Hawaii public schools have stopped using an online learning platform after parents and teachers objected to what they considered sexist, racist and unsuitable content.

A group of Hawaii elementary schools announced they had reversed their decisions to implement the Acellus Learning Accelerator, a distance learning program approved by the state Department of Education.

Among the complaints are questions about the qualifications of people involved with the program, including Acellus Chairman Roger Billings, whose blogs are featured on the website of the company based in Kansas City, Missouri.

Aliamanu Elementary School in Honolulu canceled all student accounts with Acellus Sunday over what the school called “inappropriate and racist content.”

Shafter, Hickam and Nimitz elementary schools, all in Honolulu, dropped the platform Monday.

“Since implementing the program, several concerns have been expressed regarding the appropriateness and rigor of the curriculum provided in Acellus,” Nimitz Elementary said.

Laie Elementary School in north Oahu made a similar announcement Aug. 10, three days after saying the school planned to use the program.

In a social media post Tuesday, Billings said about a dozen lessons had been reviewed and revised “to reflect current attitudes and usage” after being tagged as having racist or sexist content.

Attempts by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser to reach Billings by phone and email were not immediately successful.

Acellus, which is owned by the nonprofit International Academy of Science, offers more than 300 courses in kindergarten through 12th grade, while about 188 public and charter schools in Hawaii have Acellus licenses, the state education department said.

Hawaii’s public school principals have discretion to choose the online learning platforms used in their schools.

Charles Souza, the education department's digital design team leader, said he tested the algebra class and checked with local schools that used Acellus before making the program available for summer school.

“The feedback we got from schools was it was a very good program, the kids loved it and the teachers loved it,” Souza said.

Acellus Academy, a private, online K-12 school using the courses, is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and its Advanced Placement courses are approved by the College Board, with core courses accepted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The Acellus Learning Accelerator used in Hawaii public schools is not accredited, said Barry Groves, presiden