Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Kamehameha enlists
some heavy hitters

Gov. Lingle and other
community leaders defend
the schools' admissions policy

The Kamehameha Schools has enlisted the support of Gov. Linda Lingle and former Gov. George Ariyoshi to defend its embattled admissions policy.

In court filings in U.S. District Court yesterday, the $6 billion charitable trust submitted sworn declarations by Lingle, Ariyoshi and more than a dozen business, educational and community leaders expressing their support for the schools' Hawaiian-preference admissions policy.

Attorney Crystal Rose, representing the Kamehameha Schools along with Stanford University Law School Dean Kathleen Sullivan, argued that the policy is justified because it serves to remedy past injustices and current economic imbalances affecting Hawaiians.

"Kamehameha's educational programs are needed to put Hawaiians back on equal footing," Rose said.

The admissions policy is the subject of two federal lawsuits, which were filed earlier this year on behalf of 12-year-old Brayden Mohica-Cummings of Kauai and an anonymous local student.

The suits allege that the students, who are not of Hawaiian ancestry, were denied entry because of the school's racially discriminatory policy, which they say is illegal under federal civil rights law.

Lingle expressed support for the Kamehameha Schools' admissions policy last month when U.S. District Judge David Ezra ordered the trust to admit Mohica-Cummings for this school year.

Ezra's ruling did not address the legality of the admissions policy, but Lingle said then that she believes that it does not contradict the spirit of the civil rights law.

In her declaration, Lingle said she supports the school's admissions policy "as a way to correct the result of historical injustices done to native Hawaiian people."

"I believe, both as governor and in my own heart, that what is right and just for the native Hawaiian people is really what is right for the state, and if native Hawaiians gain, we all gain," said Lingle, a Republican.

Ariyoshi, who served as governor from 1974 to 1986, echoed Lingle's comments, saying the high incidence of poverty and social and health problems among native Hawaiians is "a black mark" on the local community.

"With its fine educational programs, Kamehameha Schools must be allowed to continue to develop native Hawaiian leaders, role models that other Hawaiians can look up to and follow," said Ariyoshi, a Democrat.

The lawsuits will be heard Nov. 17 and 18.

Established by the 1884 will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the Kamehameha Schools educates more than 5,000 children of Hawaiian ancestry each year. The trust is also state's largest private landowner and one of the nation's wealthiest charities.

In addition to Lingle and Ariyoshi, the estate submitted declarations from Walter Dods, chief executive officer of First Hawaiian Bank's parent BancWest Corp.; Michael O'Neill, chief executive officer of Bank of Hawaii Corp., Starwood Hotel & Resorts' local director Keith Vieira; and Randy Hitz, dean of the University of Hawaii's College of Education.

The estate solicited some of the statements but many were volunteered, Rose said.

John Goemans and Eric Grant, lawyers for Mohica-Cummings and the anonymous student, recently filed court papers asking U.S. District Judges Ezra and Alan Kay to declare the admissions policy illegal.

Goemans, who represented Big Island rancher Harold "Freddy" Rice in the landmark Rice vs. Cayetano case, said the Rice decision designated Hawaiian as a race and not as a tribe, making Kamehameha Schools' admissions policy "race-based" and therefore discriminatory.


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