Friday, August 29, 2003

Hawaiian fight for
school a ‘must win’

Kamehameha Schools is
circulating a petition to
support its preference policy

Kamehameha Schools will "vigorously defend our right as a Hawaiian institution to educate our Hawaiian children," said board Chairwoman Constance Lau yesterday.

"We believe our preference policy is legal," Lau said in a speech at the Native Hawaiian Conference.

Kamehameha's policy of giving preference to children of Hawaiian ancestry is challenged in two federal court lawsuits.

U.S. District Judge David Ezra ordered the schools last week to admit a non-Hawaiian Kauai boy pending a decision in the lawsuit filed by his mother. Ezra said he was not ruling on the legality of the admission policy. An earlier suit, filed on behalf of an unidentified student, also challenges the private school's preference policy.

"Defining this as a 'racial' contest -- Hawaiians vs. non-Hawaiians -- misses the point," Lau said, quoting a statement she and fellow trustees made in the Honolulu Advertiser.

"This is really about protecting an institution that was founded to improve the capability and well-being of an indigenous people who had suffered greatly in their once-sovereign homeland," she said.

The trust will provide leadership in defending the lawsuits but needs help from Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians alike, Lau said.

She said the schools will participate in a march and Family Day program in Waikiki on Sept. 7, the day before a hearing on a separate federal lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

Kamehameha also is circulating a petition statewide asking people to express their support for its preference policy. It also is planning an Oct. 31 sunrise service at the Royal Mausoleum to honor the schools' founder, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, and a Nov. 16 rally and vigil prior to the hearings on the admission policy lawsuits.

Lau noted that yesterday was the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and compared that speech with an impassioned statement made by Kamehameha trustee Nainoa Thompson at a news conference last week.

She said a news report noted that King's speech was extemporaneous.

"Those of you who witnessed Nainoa's speech last week know that it, too, was extemporaneous and that it came from his heart," she said. "And I believe we have witnessed another historic moment in the development of this world.

"Now is not a time to be reluctant or ambivalent," Lau said. "Now is a time to stand for social justice and to convince not only Hawaiians, but non-Hawaiians that it is right, it is pono, it is in the best interests of all.

"These are lawsuits we cannot afford to lose. We must win. We will win," she said.


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