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Wednesday, August 3, 2005

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RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Vicky Holt Takamine spoke at a news conference at Kawaiahao Plaza yesterday after it was announced that non-Hawaiians could be admitted to Kamehameha Schools. Behind her was Kaho'onei Panoke, executive director of 'Ilio'ulaokalani Coalition.




Decision saddens
students who support
preference policy

Parents, students and alumni of Kamehameha Schools reacted with deep dismay to yesterday's appellate court ruling that the schools' Hawaiians-only admissions policy is discriminatory.

Particularly hurtful for some was the court's inference that a policy aimed at lifting up a downtrodden race through education was in fact racist.

"I was shocked when I heard, and I'm still speechless. I'm still trying to process this," said Kainoa Daines, a 1997 graduate.

Winston Wong, who will be a sophomore at Kamehameha Schools' Kapalama campus when classes resume in a couple of weeks, said the schools' policy is justified by history and should be viewed as an exception to modern civil-rights laws.

"The Hawaiians have had so many injustices done to them in the past, that it's only right that something be given back to them," he said.

Considering the diversity at the schools today, the court's opinion couldn't be further off the mark, said many current and former members of the school community.

Rather than racially restrictive, the school is a melting pot where children of many races mingle, said sophomore Kanoe Tjorvatjoglou, a fourth-generation Kamehameha Schools student.

"If you look at all the students, hardly any are pure Hawaiians. We're all mixed," said Tjorvatjoglou, who is Greek-Hawaiian-English-Irish-Chinese.

"It's just that we all share the common bond of having some Hawaiian blood. That is what makes us strong. It makes it easy to learn together when you have that bond," she said.

Daines said the school has probably become a victim of its own success at providing a high-quality, low-cost education through the wealth generated by the trust of Bernice Pauahi Bishop.

There would have been little motivation for the original lawsuit challenging the schools' policy otherwise, he said.

"That's a huge factor. There are a lot of good private schools in Hawaii, but when they charge $13,000 for tuition while Kamehameha charges less than $1,500 for a comparable education, people are going to want to get in there," he said.

School stakeholders urged the trust's leadership to take the fight to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary, but stressed that if that fails, any incoming non-Hawaiian students would be treated with the compassion and respect expected of all students.

"They might be treated different in the beginning. That's human nature, especially if something is being forced upon you," Wong said.

"But we're all students of Princess Pauahi and the majority of us will do what's right."

Still, some fear that a forced change will irrevocably alter what makes the school special.

"I'm afraid that if we start accepting non-Hawaiians, the drive to teach us about the Hawaiian culture and ways will disappear, too," said Tjorvatjoglou.

"We will be accepting of (non-Hawaiians), but deep in our hearts we'll be sad."



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