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Sunday, October 17, 2004



School vows
to battle suit

The 9th Circuit Court will rule
on the legality of Kamehameha
Schools' admissions policy


Leaders of Kamehameha Schools announced yesterday that they will defend the school's right to grant admissions preference to applicants of Hawaiian ancestry at a hearing before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals next month.

Show of Support

Public prayer services are being organized for those who want to show support for Kamehameha Schools' mission.

Oct. 31: Kamehameha is also holding an event open to the public called "Legacy Day" at the Bishop Memorial Chapel on the Kapalama campus from 1:30 to 5 p.m. A prayer service will be held starting at 3 p.m.

Nov. 4: At 7 a.m. the morning of the court hearing, simultaneous prayer services will be held on the UH Manoa campus, at various churches across the state and on the Kamehameha Schools campuses at Kapalama and on Maui and the Big Island. The UH prayer service will be held in the cavernous Stan Sheriff Arena, where Mailer said "thousands are expected to attend."

"We will fight the hardest we have ever fought," said Kamehameha Schools Chief Executive Officer Dee Jay Mailer at a press conference yesterday crowded with more than 30 supporters.

Kamehameha Schools Trustee Nainoa Thompson said, "We are prepared to defend our (Hawaiian preference) policy for as long as it takes to correct the educational imbalances suffered by Hawaiians."

He added, "Our community sees this as another taking."

Thompson and Mailer were optimistic that the 9th Circuit would uphold the Nov. 17 decision of U.S. District Court Judge Alan Kay that the school's admissions policy does not violate federal anti-discrimination law.

The case, John Doe v. Kamehameha Schools, was filed in June 2003 on behalf of an unidentified student from the Big Island who claimed that he was qualified academically to attend Kamehameha but that he was not accepted because he lacked Hawaiian blood.

John Goemans, the Big Island lawyer who filed the suit, could not be reached yesterday for comment.

Eric Grant, the California attorney who argued the case against Kamehameha, did not return telephone calls to his home or office. Previously, Grant has said he was confident the 9th Circuit would overturn Kay's decision.

The school's admissions policy was adopted by its first board of trustees, which was led by Charles Reed Bishop, the widower of school founder Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. In 1884, Pauahi, who saw education as the means to a better life for native Hawaiians, donated her wealth of royal lands to the establishment and operation of a school.

Today the trust is a $6 billion, tax-exempt charity that educates more than 4,800 Hawaiian children each year on its three campuses and through programs in the community, including early childhood programs, scholarships and support for charter schools.

In his ruling, Kay argued that programs that give one race priority over another are legally allowed when they serve a legitimate purpose, such as remedying racial injustices of the past. Kay found that Kamehameha's policy serves to right the historical injustices and inequities suffered by Hawaiians since the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.

Yesterday, Thompson noted the school does not receive federal funds and that its efforts to correct inequalities have been recognized by Congress.

The hearing will be held in the moot court of the University of Hawaii-Manoa's William S. Richardson School on Nov. 4 when the court makes one of its scheduled visits to Hawaii. Coincidentally, Nov. 4 is also the 117th anniversary of Kamehameha Schools' founding.

The school is planning prayer services on the day of the hearing and a public show of support on Oct. 31.

The Doe case was one of two federal court cases Goemans filed against Kamehameha Schools in 2003 that challenged the admissions policy. The other case was filed on behalf of Brayden Mohica-Cummings, then a seventh-grader from Kauai. After Mohica-Cummings was accepted, it was found he had no Hawaiian blood.

Last November, around the time of Kay's ruling, Kamehameha settled with Mohica-Cummings. Under the settlement, Goemans would drop the federal suit and Mohica-Cummings would be allowed to continue his education at Kamehameha until he graduates.

Mailer said yesterday that since the Mohica-Cummings case, the school has implemented a "more rigorous" process to determine an applicant's Hawaiian ancestry. Applicants now must supply their own birth certificate in addition to those of their parents and, if possible, their grandparents. The school also checks with a computer database of Hawaiian ancestry.

Yesterday's press conference was symbolically held on the anniversary of Pauahi's death on Oct. 16, 1884.

"I see this as an issue of equality and a need to restore balance," Thompson said, adding, "It's also about raising the need for hope and healing in our community."

Mailer said the same legal team, headed by Honolulu attorney Crystal Rose and California attorney Kathleen Sullivan, that presented the case to Kay will argue before the 9th Circuit.

Mailer told reporters that it was fitting that "the arguments will be heard on Hawaiian soil, the homeland of Pauahi."

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