KAMEHAMEHA POLICY TESTED
Kamehameha Schools students danced a hula in support of their school yesterday as they waited outside court during hearings on an appeal of a lawsuit challenging the schools' Hawaiian-preference admission policy. .
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Supporters and students filled Kawaiahao Church yesterday morning, praying in unison and listening to a message of unity in support of Kamehameha Schools' Hawaiians-preference admissions policy.
Later in the morning, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel heard arguments on an appeal by an unnamed, non-Hawaiian student whose lawsuit to overturn the school's admission policy was dismissed.
Nainoa Thompson, chairman of the school's board of trustees, stood in the aisle between pews, delivering an impassioned speech emphasizing the need to unite to "defend the gift" of Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the school's benefactor.
He reminded the audience of Kamehameha Schools' mission to fulfill her wishes of educating native Hawaiian children. "We need to be pono. We need to be strong. We need to be together."
Audience members agreed.
"I'm not Hawaiian, but I stand with the purpose of the school to educate Hawaiian children, and that should not be changed," said Brenda Wong. "It's not an issue of civil rights, but it's an issue of justice for all Hawaiian children."
Jonathan Osorio, director of the Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii, said, "Kamehameha is clearly devoted to the mission of educating Hawaiian children first.
"We at Kamakakuokalani (the Center for Hawaiian Studies) support that mission, and we will fight and we will do everything in our power to maintain this institution and our sense of identity."
Kamehameha Schools freshman Aaron Tuifagu said: "I feel that we should honor Pauahi's legacy and her will to educate people of Hawaiian ancestry.
"In her lifetime, she saw the decline of people in education and Hawaiians dying out, becoming a minority in their own homeland," said Tuifagu, who is 15 percent native Hawaiian. "It was her will that we be educated and become industrious men and women.
"I think if they take away the preference policy, we're taking away her dream and this school would be different."