[ OUR OPINION ]
consider contingency plan
Kamehameha Schools has filed a response in federal court to a lawsuit challenging their Hawaiians-only admission policy.
KAMEHAMEHA Schools officials plan to launch a vigorous legal defense of their policy of admitting only children of Hawaiian ancestry, but the task is formidable. The U.S. Supreme Court's 2000 ruling that Hawaiian is a racial designation threatens to end the schools' policy, and school officials should begin considering a contingency plan to salvage the institution in the event of a defeat in court.
Saturday, July 26, 2003
>> References in an editorial on Page A10 Monday about Kamehameha Schools' policy of admitting only native Hawaiian students included incorrect references to a U.S. Supreme Court case. A quotation attributed to a 1985 Supreme Court ruling actually was from a brief filed with the court. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 denies federal assistance to any private school practicing racial discrimination, but that particular law does not, as the editorial stated, prohibit discrimination by a private school not receiving federal funds. A quotation from Congress asserting that it intended to protect every citizen against discrimination, regardless of race, pertained to the Civil Rights Act of 1866, not the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
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A policy that would allow admission to any child whose ancestry can be traced to Hawaii -- but not necessarily to ethnic Hawaiians -- in 1883, when Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop executed her will establishing the schools, or 1893, when the Hawaiian kingdom was overthrown, would not violate civil-rights laws. Under such a policy, the enrollment probably would remain predominantly Hawaiian in ethnicity. Many of the children who are descendants of non-Hawaiian citizens of the kingdom are of Hawaiian ethnicity because of interracial marriages in the past century.
In defending its current policy, the schools point to a 1999 Internal Revenue Service ruling that affirms its 1975 ruling that the trustees' policy was not indicative of racial discrimination. The agency noted that students, in addition to being part Hawaiian, also are partly of Caucasian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, African-American, Arabian, native Alaskan or Native American ancestry.
STAR-BULLETIN / 2002|
Participants held hands during a chant opening a forum last year to discuss Kamehameha Schools' admission policy. The forum was held after the schools' controversial decision to admit a non-Hawaiian student.
The same could be said of voters in Office of Hawaiian Affairs elections, but the Supreme Court in the case of Rice vs. Cayetano ruled that allowing only residents with native Hawaiian ancestry to cast ballots in the OHA elections was unconstitutional racial discrimination. A lawsuit filed in federal court last month alleges that Kamehameha Schools' restriction similarly violates the law.
In answer to the lawsuit, Kamehameha Schools attorney David Schulmeister asserted that the schools' policy was inspired by "deprivations suffered by Hawaiians both prior and subsequent to the involuntary loss of their right of self-governance in 1893." John W. Goemans, the plaintiff's attorney in the case, is sure to point out that the same loss of governance was incurred by citizens of the Kingdom of Hawaii who were not of Hawaiian ethnicity but who accounted for a majority of the kingdom's citizens.
Kamehameha Schools cannot successfully argue that it is permissible to use racial discrimination in its admission policy because it is a private school. The Supreme Court has ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination against any race by a private school, regardless of whether the school receives federal funds.
The high court pointed out in 1985 that Congress affirmed that it was intended to "protect every citizen, including the millions of people of foreign birth who will flock to our shores to become citizens and to find here a land of liberty and law."
The court ruled that the law was "never intended to apply solely to non-whites, but rather, as the statute provides, to 'all persons' and 'all citizens.'"