Fact Check: 2,000 Kids NOT Missing From Maui A Month After 2023 Wildfires -- School Enrollment Data ≠ Missing Persons Data

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: 2,000 Kids NOT Missing From Maui A Month After 2023 Wildfires -- School Enrollment Data ≠ Missing Persons Data Not Lost

Were 2,000 kids missing in Maui a month after the wildfires of August 2023? No, that's not true: There are not 2,000 missing children on the island of Maui, Hawaii Governor Josh Green's office told Lead Stories on September 11, 2023. The claim was built on school enrollment data and not missing persons data. The official count of missing people after the wildfires was 66 as of September 11, 2023, and they were a variety of ages, the Maui Joint Information Center told Lead Stories.

The claim appeared in a video article published on X, formerly known as Twitter on September 6, 2023 (archived here), which opened:

Maui Fires: Recapping The Facts. Still 2000 kids missing. ???????????????? https://t.co/Nhfp0OTXFs

This is what the post looked like on Twitter at the time of writing:

image - 2023-09-11T132059.272.png

Twitter screenshot

(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Mon Sep 11 19:48:44 2023 UTC)

A person speaking on the video begins at :43 making the claims about the children:

We do know that they canceled school that day, the same day this is going to happen. And it was 3,000 students missing and only 1,000 are accounted for so that means there's still 2,000 children missing.

There are not 2,000 missing children on the island of Maui after the August 8, 2023 wildfires, Gov. Green's office told Lead Stories via email on September 11, 2023.

The 2,000 figure apparently stems from the number of students who have not re-enrolled for the school year in Lahaina. As changes in enrollment can reflect families moving or students switching schools or parents opting for other forms of education, "not re-enrolled" is far from "missing" after a disaster.

The Hawai'i State Department of Education released enrollment statistics on August 24, 2023 for the schools in Lahaina with a graphic that detailed the status of students, showing that 2,000 have not re-enrolled in another public school for which the Department would have records. Page 11 of the report breaks down enrollment as of August 21 2023.

  • Aug. 8 enrollment in Lāhaināluna Complex (pre-fire) - 3,001
  • Students who have re-enrolled in other public schools - 538
  • Students who have enrolled in the State Distance Learning Program (SDLP), English and Hawaiian language immersion - 438
  • Remainder of students who have not re-enrolled in another public school or opted for distance learning (may have moved out of state, enrolled in private schools) - 2,025

Here is a screenshot of the report:

Screen Shot 2023-09-11 at 11.13.38 AM.png

(Source: Hawaii Department of Education screenshot taken on Mon Sep 11 19:48:44 2023 UTC)

These students are not enrolled in another public school but they are not "missing" or considered unaccounted for as victims of the Maui wildfires.

Jon Heggie, public information office for the Maui Joint Information Center, spoke to Lead Stories via telephone on September 11, 2023, and said the claim that there were 2,000 missing children on Maui was false:

We have a confirmed missing persons of 66 at this time. We are not releasing which ones are children but they are a variety of ages.

Heggie told Lead Stories that the 2,025 students who have not re-enrolled in another public school or opted for distance learning as of August 21, 2023, have "nothing to do with the actual number of confirmed missing, which still stands at 66."

On September 9, 2023, the Maui Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a list of 66 names "that were reported by a member of the community as someone who they believed were unaccounted for as a result of the wildfires in Lahaina on August 8, 2023." The list includes only one name that is known to be a minor.

Other Lead Stories fact checks about the Maui wildfires can be found here.

Updates:

  • 2023-09-15T18:24:03Z 2023-09-15T18:24:03Z
    Updated to add the FBI list of 65 adults and 1 minor child missing from the fire zone.

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  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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