HSTA’s Human and Civil Rights (HCR) Committee supports and nurtures diversity and equity in our multifaceted community, encourages member engagement in racial and social justice issues to promote non-discriminatory spaces for educators and learners, and supports members’ abilities to stand up for and speak out on behalf of students and their community.



HSTA CARES (Culture, Advocacy, Respect, Equity, Support​) is an HCR initiative to integrate social and racial justice principles into education to create schools and communities that are safe, inclusive, and equitable​ for all keiki.

PD development and training team

HCR invites members who are passionate about social and racial justice to apply for our HSTA CARES professional development and training team. This cadre will develop and conduct training in the form of PDE3 courses approved by the Hawaii State Department of Education and offered under HSTA’s Professional Development program. Members will also develop and lead workshops to share this content on a smaller scale.

Details coming soon


Black Lives Matter

The Hawaii State Teachers Association condemns any and all acts against Black communities and communities of color.

The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor reflect just a fraction of unacceptable violations rooted in a deep history of systemic racism, oppression, and violence. We cannot allow this to continue.

But it’s not enough to just say the words. We must act on them.

While we cannot heal or eradicate centuries of inequity and dehumanization, we must try.

As teachers, we have a responsibility to educate our keiki and our communities on issues of racial and social justice. We must know better. We must be better. We must do more.

Learn more

What we have done since our statement and call to action against systemic racism, oppression, and violence (from most recent):


HCR Committee Report SY 2019–20

HSTA Human and Civil Rights Committee Chair Jodi Kunimitsu, a Maui High School math teacher, reflects on the committee’s work over the past year and what lies ahead. This video report appeared during HSTA’s first-ever State of Our Union broadcast on May 16, 2020.

Watch with transcript and links

Sarah “Mili” Milianta-Laffin

Meet our 2020 winner


Pono Award

The Pono Award recognizes an exceptional HSTA member who advocates on social justice issues that impact the lives of students, fellow educators, and the community. Nominees must be principal organizers of campaigns or actions to address social justice issues such as, but not limited to: immigration reform, school-to-prison pipeline, equity in education, LGBTQ bias and issues, English-language learner advocacy, racial profiling, voter suppression and/or rights, and bullying.

The recipient of this award is submitted as HSTA’s nominee to the National Education Association Social Justice Activist of the Year Award, which is presented during NEA’s Conference on Racial and Social Justice in July. (Note: This was postponed in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.)

Past winner: Laverne Moore (2016).

Scot Yamashita

Meet our 2020 winner


Friend of Youth Award

The Friend of Youth Award recognizes an outstanding individual who works to support Hawaii’s youth. Nominees must be involved in a youth-oriented activity outside of their professional duties, dedicate time and service to this cause, and demonstrate significant impact on youth.

Past winners: Jason Routon (2018), Faye Like Wallace (2017), Ted Takamiya (2016), Virginia Brautigan Aste (2015), Robin Hermance (2014), Rose Atsuko Ah Sing Yamada (2013), Mervin Dudoit (2012), Penny Martin (2011), Alice Hewett (2010), Peter Rayno Jr. (2009), Alice Ransil (2008), Derek Kurisu (2007), Shiro Takata (2006), Randall Ng (2005), Duke Sevilla (2004), Clara and Joe Mishima (1999), Lyman Medeiros (1998), Marilyn Pollock (1997), Kiyoko Nishikawa and Bert Kakugawa (1996), Takeshi Fujita (1995), Zoreh Furatado and Mary Gomez (1994), Neal and Nadine Morimoto (1993), Frank DeLima (1992), Ted Kimura (1991), Earl Eckart (1990), Ellen Kusano (1989), Kayo Chung and Earl Miyao (1987), Carol Kimura and Robert Lani (1986), Steven Frias (1985).


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

On this day, HSTA participates in annual parades on Oahu and Maui to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, legacy, and leadership in interracial cooperation, equality, social change through nonviolent resolution of conflict, dedication to global peace, social justice, economic security, and the eradication of poverty. He was also a labor movement champion who told the ILWU Local 10 in San Francisco in 1967 when he was inducted as an honorary member, “We’ve learned from labor the meaning of power.”

Learn more



HSTA is proud to celebrate the contributions of the LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual) community and the cultural diversity of our island home. Each year the committee encourages participation in pride events, like the Honolulu Pride Parade from Magic Island to Kapiolani Park. In 2019, members and supporters also wrote messages of support for Hawaii’s LGBTQIA+ students and/or messages that promote inclusive schools and classrooms.

Learn more


Social Justice Summit


HSTA’s Social Justice Summit is free and open to the public, and aims to highlight and support disadvantaged groups, especially among our youth. How can we address the struggles and complex issues our students face as they navigate our classrooms, campuses, and communities? Unfortunately, we had to postpone our 2020 event, originally scheduled for May 3, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Contact HCR

For more information, please contact HCR Chair Jodi Kunimitsu or reach out to your chapter representative: Kaleo Ramos (Honolulu), Roy Hannu (Central), Jill Yamasawa Fletcher (Leeward), Kit Brizuela Absalon (Windward), Elizabeth Sharrock (Hilo), Daphna Ehrenhalt (Hilo), Karina Hernandez (Kona), Rebecca Kapolei Kiili (Maui), Nicole Heinlein (Maui), Brenda Palumbo (Lanai), SaraJane Larkin (Molokai), Heidi Avarez (Kauai), and Dana Gorelangton Turnbull (HSTA-Retired).