Thursday, July 17, 2003

Trustees affirm
Hawaiians-only policy

Kamehameha officials defend
admissions as being necessary
to aid Hawaiian children

Kamehameha Schools officials defended their Hawaiians-only admission policy against allegations that it violates civil rights laws, saying the policy is needed to better educate Hawaiian children.

In an answer to a U.S. District Court lawsuit filed last month, Kamehameha Schools trustees said the policy was inspired by "deprivations suffered by Hawaiians both prior and subsequent to the involuntary loss of their right of self-governance in 1893."

A statement by Kamehameha Schools Acting Chief Executive Colleen Wong and Board of Trustees Chairwoman Constance Lau regarding the school's response was also sent out to staff and employees via e-mail yesterday.

"Princess Pauahi created Kamehameha Schools to provide educational opportunities to improve the capability and well-being of people of Hawaiian ancestry," the statement said. "Our policy of offering admissions preference to applicants of Hawaiian ancestry, which was established over a century ago by the first Kamehameha Schools Board of Trustees, exists to fulfill that mission.

"We will vigorously defend it."

Kamehameha Schools was criticized by its alumni and the Hawaiian community last year for admitting a non-Hawaiian to its Maui campus. This year, they admitted only students of Hawaiian ancestry.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of an unidentified non-Hawaiian student on June 25 asserted that federal civil rights laws prohibit private schools from denying admission on the basis of race.

The suit was filed by Big Island attorney John Goemans and Eric Grant, of a Sacramento, Calif., law firm.

"We fully expect the federal courts to vindicate the principle of equal treatment and force Kamehameha Schools to stop discriminating and to admit our client," said Grant.

Goemans added: "Like Gov. George Wallace of Alabama, the trustees of Kamehameha Schools are standing in the schoolhouse door to prevent the admission of qualified children simply because they have the wrong skin color and bloodline.

"That is wrong, and this lawsuit will demonstrate it is against the law."

Three years ago, Goemans' constitutional challenge of Hawaiians-only voting for trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs on behalf of Big Island rancher Harold "Freddy" Rice was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court held that Hawaiian is a racial designation and that the state voting law restricting OHA's elections to Hawaiians was unconstitutional racial discrimination.


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