Above is a snap of Keith T. Hayashi, Superintendent of the Hawaii Department of Education, presenting a report on "Maui Wildfire Impacts" on August 24. The "impacts," of course, have been ghastly -- surreal . For starters, none of Lahaina's four public schools in West Maui are operational since the fires of August 8. However, it is in this same DOE report that we can see, in the dispassionate navy blue and white of a simple graphic (below), that over two thousand -- 2,025 -- previously enrolled Lahaina schoolchildren are missing from the public school system. That's a little over two-thirds of the 3,001 children heretofore served by Lahaina schools who "have not re-enrolled in another public school or opted for distance learning."
As if to soothe spiking palpitations of panic, the slide also notes that these two-thousand-plus kids may well "have moved out of state" or "enrolled in private schools." Yes, yes, they may well have done exactly that. Further, some or even many of these children and their families could be so overwhelmed by the ordeal they are suffering through that school is the last thing on any of their minds. But it is also possible, as noted by the Hawaii Star Advertiser, that some of these children "may have died in the fire."
Certainly, then, establishing the safety and location of these thousands of young children should be a priority for all concerned -- especially given that the government's messaging for the past couple of weeks seemed designed to gird the public for some appalling number of dead children to be tallied among the fatalities. Of course, that was then.
What would you say if I told you the subject did not even come up in Governor Josh Green's Day 20 "press" conference yesterday (August 28)? Green didn't raise the matter. Instead, he both reaffirmed the death count, unchanged, at "about 115," and drastically lowered the official missing count to 388, only to immediately shave off another 100, leaving the "unaccounted for," by my count, at a new low of 288 people.
What about an update on the whereabouts of 2,025 schoolchildren reported as unenrolled by the Department of Education? No one in the press even asked the question. That's how well-trained they are, that's how canned the whole event was. It was another theatrical set piece designed to move a message -- certainly not to expose new and vital information, let alone a scandal or a crime.
The message? According to Josh Green, the "search and rescue" efforts in Lahaina are over; no more survivors will be found; sign up to receive your FEMA goodies; and hand over your DNA "for closure" (Peggy Hall documents the uselessness of DNA for identification purposes in drastic fire scenarios here.). In the end (the subtext goes), there are not even that many dead or missing whom the government will attest to. Good media lapdogs know what that means: That's that.
Thank goodness the Hawaii Star Advertiser, for one, is not buying. From today's editorial (August 29):
Literally thousands of students who had been attending West Maui schools have not re-enrolled at a DOE school or for remote learning — and the DOE must uncover where they have gone.
... the DOE must account for the 2,025 students who had been attending Lahaina’s four public schools before the fires, and who are now unaccounted for. That’s about two-thirds of the Lahaina student body who had not enrolled in other Hawaii public schools or the state’s distance learning program as of last week. State officials have said they don’t yet know how many have left the system for private schools or the mainland, are pausing schooling, or are among those missing after the Lahaina fire.
That’s a mystery that must be resolved....