UPDATE: Five ongoing lawsuits involving Hawaii high school athletics

There are five ongoing court cases involving Hawaii high school sports. Photo illustration by Martha Hernandez / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

There are currently at least five lawsuits in the courts that have to do with Hawaii high school sports.

Here are updates on each of them:


>> A Kaiser football player’s parent, Gregory Tartamella, is going to court as the defendant in a jury trial. The charges are assault, terroristic threatening and harassment of now ex-football coach Arnold Martinez. The case stems partly from an incident in fall 2017 in which Tartamella was caught on video yelling at Martinez. Kaiser, which was having trouble getting enough players to field a team, wound up canceling the rest of its season soon after.

UPDATE: The trial started Monday and is scheduled to continue Thursday.



>> A prospective federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of two female athletes at Campbell alleging gender-based bias and unequal treatment of female athletes was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Hawaii chapter in December. The OIA and the DOE are the defendants.

— The OIA has filed a motion to dismiss based on the grounds that Title IX applies to institutions receiving federal funding and that the DOE — not the OIA — is the organization that receives federal funding. A hearing on that motion is scheduled for April 5. In a Honolulu Star-Advertiser column by Ferd Lewis that ran Sunday, school superintendent Christina Kishimoto said that at the present time the OIA is separate from the DOE.

“My understanding is that it (the OIA) has been part of the DOE then was separated out of the DOE, (and) that’s all part of the discussions I’m having right now and looking into the history and whether it makes sense to be together or separate again,” she said at a Star-Advertiser editorial board meeting.

The plaintiffs in the court filing define the OIA as “An unincorporated athletic association composed of all of the DOE’s secondary schools on the island of Oahu and … the OIA is an instrumentality of, and is controlled by, the DOE.”

— In a court filing, DOE attorneys wrote, “The DOE is opposing this lawsuit; whatever historical disparities there may have been have disappeared and treatment in facilities, coaching, scheduling, etc., are substantially equal.”

— A trial date has been set for Feb. 24, 2020.

— The case has not been certified as a class-action suit, but the plaintiffs are expected to file a motion for certification soon, according to a source. If it becomes a certified class-action suit, the scope could widen to include more plaintiffs and/or more schools in Hawaii as defendants.



>> The parents of former Kapolei football player Simione Vehikite are suing USC, the NCAA and the Hawaii High School Athletic Association. The suit claims that Vehikite suffered mental health problems as a direct result of head trauma from playing football. Vehikite died in 2017. It has been reported in another media outlet that he committed suicide.

UPDATE: A source outside but close to the HHSAA with direct knowledge of its policies and procedures said, “The HHSAA has always been at the forefront of player safety. No other state does all of these things: They have a trainer at every athletic contest, a doctor at every football contest, baseline concussion testing for all athletes, an ambulance at every site of the football state tournament, coaches doing concussion and heat illness courses, coaches required to be USA Football certified with classes that teach proper tackling and equipment. It’s understood across the nation that Hawaii does the most to protect its student-athletes.”



>> Fata McMoore and Starr Kalilikane, the parents of a St. Francis football player, filed a lawsuit in September against the HHSAA, ILH and OIA, challenging transfer rules. The player was told he was ineligible to play because of a transfer from Pearl City. He was denied a preliminary injunction and was unable to play for most games during the season.

UPDATE: Even though the season is over, the case is ongoing, but there are no new details to report.



>> The parents of three Castle football players filed suit in First Circuit Court against Knights football coach John Hao, principal Bernadette Tyrell and athletic director Laynie Sueyasu, as well as district superintendent Matt Ho. The suit — filed by Kyle Giron and his wife Ashleigh Giron in November — alleges that proper care was not taken to reasonably keep their sons away from harm, and it specifically relates to a dangerous tackling drill that was caught on video.

UPDATE: No developments to report.


  1. Falcon Future March 7, 2019 10:19 am

    Thanks for the updates. Here’s my humble take …

    1. Kaiser. The parent needs to be punished. Maybe not prison time, but definitely some kind of probation, fine and/or community service. No parent should be allowed to approach a coach like that with foul language in front of the kids.

    2. Campbell. Build the girls locker room and end of story. For now, bring in a couple of those temporary buildings with toilets.

    3. HHSAA/Kapolei. Sad to hear about the kid, but this sounds like a blame game and money grab. Hopefully the case gets dismissed, or lots of other cases could follow.

    4. St. Francis. The school is shutting down. The kid has to go to a new school and can play football right away. If he’s that good, scouts will find him, no matter what happened last year. Dismiss the case.

    5. Castle. This is interesting because the assistant coaches who made the kids do the stupid drills are not even named. If I remember right, the head coach was not there that day and that might be the reason why the assistants thought it was good idea to put the kids through the drills. Punishment should be in the form of probation, community service, and education classes on player safety for all the Castle football coaches and the AD.

  2. kaneoheboy March 7, 2019 2:30 pm


    you missed one, there is a 2nd lawsuit vs Castle AD & Principal involving boy’s basketball. It’s not what one thinks though, it involves a Staff Member.

    Falcon Future, some of these mentioned lawsuits, gonna cost the DOE some big bucks which means taxpayers going to foot the bill for the DOE’s incompetence.

  3. Nick Abramo March 28, 2019 3:00 pm

    Kaneohe Boy … tell me more, if can, about the second Castle suit.

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