Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Ruling expected
today on lawsuit
against Kamehameha

A non-Hawaiian was initially
accepted to the school and now
seeks an injunction to attend

A federal judge is expected today to rule whether to force Kamehameha Schools to allow a non-Hawaiian student to attend.

Kamehameha Schools contends that Brayden Mohica-Cummings' mother misled the school that the boy was of Hawaiian descent when she said her adoptive father was her birth father. The school says she has not established that her natural father was of Hawaiian ancestry.

The blond Kauai seventh-grader sat before the judge next to his mother, Kalena Santos, yesterday as his lawyer, Eric Grant, argued he would suffer irreparable harm if denied entrance to the private school with a Hawaiians-only policy.

Judge David Ezra heard arguments yesterday afternoon on requests for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to compel the school to admit Mohica-Cummings to the Kapalama campus.

Mohica-Cummings had been initially accepted to the school, but was denied when the school discovered he had no Hawaiian blood. He had been attending Kapaa Middle School.

Grant said his client was looking forward to starting classes at Kamehameha tomorrow morning, had a dormitory room prepared for him Monday and was scheduled to attend an orientation with his mother. The boy had already missed three weeks of school at Kapaa, he said.

Grant, a California lawyer, and Waimea attorney John Goemans sued Kamehameha Schools  and its trustees Monday, challenging its Hawaiians-only policy on the basis that it is discriminatory.

It was Goemans' second lawsuit challenging the schools' admission policy. The first, Doe vs. Kamehameha Schools, was filed June 25.

Last year, a Maui student became the first non-Hawaiian permitted to attend Kamehameha Schools on Maui, creating an uproar among beneficiaries of the trust that oversees Kamehameha.

Kamehameha Schools attorney David Schulmeister said Mohica-Cummings has not been harmed, noting the boy's mother had plenty of time to re-enroll her son at a public school.

On July 8, Santos admitted to the school's admission personnel that the man listed on her birth certificate, Melvin Cummings, who was of Hawaiian ancestry, was her adoptive and not her biological father.

She had never claimed the Hawaiians-preference policy was illegal, Schulmeister said, but was instead asking that an exception be made for her son.

She also told admission personnel that her biological mother told her that her natural father was not Hawaiian, he said. In another conversation later that day, Santos said she would check whether her natural father was Hawaiian.

Ezra questioned what irreparable harm would come to Kamehameha Schools if the boy were allowed to attend.

Schulmeister responded that there is a lot of competition for the 4,400 slots for grades K-12 by 70,000 children of Hawaiian ancestry.

He also argued that the issue is not constitutional and that Congress has established programs to educate native Hawaiians because of an imbalance in educational opportunities.

Schulmeister said the application was clear that information was to be provided for biological grandparents, saying Santos failed to check off an adopted status box for herself on the form.

Grant told the court that Santos is not a deceitful, cunning woman trying to obtain her son's entry by trickery.

"If you ask her who her father is, it's Mr. Cummings," he said. "That's the man she grew up with, and that's the man married to her mother."

After the hearing, Grant said: "I think it's ridiculous to hold her to the letter of the exact wording of the form," adding the application form said "it's just a survey."

"It's illegal to discriminate in this country on the basis of race," Grant said. "The school's policy does just that."

He said Mohica-Cummings beat out several applicants.

Grant cited the federal Civil Rights Act of 1866, which says not even private schools can discriminate on the basis of race.

Grant said he is not pursuing the issue of the boy's hanai grandfather's Hawaiian ancestry.

"Regardless of his ancestry, Brayden deserves to attend because discrimination is illegal," Grant said.


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --