Friday, August 22, 2003

School threats
prompt warning

Angry rhetoric over
a Kamehameha student
enrolled by court order
riles the U.S. attorney

Prompted by heated rhetoric against a 12-year-old non-Hawaiian student admitted to Kamehameha Schools, U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo warned yesterday that any violence or threats of violence are federal offenses.

Kubo said he was concerned by public comments by community members that could be seen as inciting violence against Brayden Mohica-Cummings, of Kauai, whose admission to Kamehameha Schools' Kapalama Heights campus was forced by federal court order.

"I have been watching the news and the interviews and the talk shows, and we have references to 'kill haole day every day' or that people are not responsible for the safety of this child and comments like that," Kubo said yesterday.

"Despite the heated debate, there's no need of the urging of violence or talk that lends itself to condoning the violence."

On Wednesday, U.S. Judge David Ezra ordered the school to admit Mohica-Cummings to attend the seventh-grade classes, which began yesterday.

Ezra made no ruling on whether the estate's Hawaiian preference admission system was illegal or constitutional.

Mohica-Cummings, who sued the estate to overturn its admission policy, initially was accepted, but school officials rescinded the offer on Aug. 13 after they were unable to confirm his Hawaiian ancestry.

Ezra said the last-minute reversal by Kamehameha caused Mohica-Cummings to miss three weeks of classes at Kapaa Middle School and that the potential harm to him outweighed any harm to Kamehameha.

The controversy is the latest to hit the $6 billion Kamehameha Schools, whose admission policy gives preference to children of native Hawaiian ancestry. The schools were sued earlier this year by an unnamed non-Hawaiian boy who was denied entry due to his race.

And last year, the estate was forced to admit a non-Hawaiian student to its Maui campus after officials failed to fill all openings with Hawaiian students. The decision caused an uproar in the Hawaiian community and led the estate's trustees to reaffirm its Hawaiians-only preference.

Ezra's decision was protested by 50 members of the Kamehameha Schools ohana at the campus yesterday morning.

After the ruling, Lilikala Kame'eleihiwa, director of the UH Center for Hawaiian Studies, said Mohica-Cummings was sure to face "an attitude" from some fellow students.

"When our kids get into a beef with this boy, they're going to get thrown out. Our children will suffer. This is a very bad decision," she said Wednesday.

Kubo said that inciting violence or threatening can be considered obstruction of justice, a civil rights violation or a federal hate crime. The penalties are punishable by no less than a year in jail, he said.

Kubo said he has been in contact with Honolulu police to monitor the situation.

Kubo, whose children are part-Hawaiian, praised Headmaster Michael Chun for providing public assurances that Mohica-Cummings will be treated like any other student. Chun promised to work with students, parents and faculty members to avoid a backlash.

"We all agree about the importance of Kamehameha Schools to Hawaii and to Hawaii's children, but violence, threatened violence, or the wrongful urging of violence has no place in this debate," Kubo said. "It is our desire that cooler heads prevail in this emotional issue facing our community."


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