Friday, September 16, 2005

Admission delay could
prompt boy to seek money

The non-Hawaiian teenager's lawyer
files papers to force a vote

An attorney fighting to have a non-Hawaiian teenager attend his senior year at Kamehameha Schools said yesterday he would seek monetary damages if the case drags on past the end of the academic year.

"That's not what the client is in for; he wants to go to school," said Eric Grant, a Sacramento, Calif., attorney representing the unidentified boy rejected by the school because he lacks Hawaiian ancestry.

If the boy is not admitted before graduation next summer, Grant said, "we will seek monetary damages." The lawyer said he has not decided how much money to seek from the private school system, which is funded by a $6.2 billion trust.

The teenager's chances of getting into the prestigious private Hawaiian school dim by the day as the school prepares to enter its second month of classes.

The lawsuit was filed in June 2003 after Kamehameha turned down the teenager, saying he lacked Hawaiian bloodlines and thus did not meet the schools' 117-year-old admission policy of giving preference to applicants who have Hawaiian ancestral ties.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that the schools' policy is illegal because it operates "as an absolute bar to admission of those of the non-preferred race." The school has more than 5,000 students in elementary to high school classes on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island.

But a pending appeal by the school requesting that a larger panel of appeals court judges review the decision has stalled the case.

The boy, who is named only as John Doe in the lawsuit, has since enrolled at a public school in Hawaii.

Grant said his filing of court papers yesterday gives the 9th Circuit two weeks to decide whether to vote on the schools' appeal. However, the legal process, including a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, could delay a final decision on the case until 2007, he said.

Kamehameha argues the historic admission practice follows the 1883 will of a princess who set up the school system for Hawaiians who have suffered disadvantages following the 1893 U.S.-backed overthrow of their kingdom.

"The court has the arguments before it as far as whether to grant the rehearing, and we hope that they will find in our favor," said school spokesman Kekoa Paulsen.

Grant said he would never give up on his case because it deals with serious racial issues.

"The principle is important, and there's no reason to have come all this way to give up," he said.

Only two non-Hawaiians have been accepted to the school in recent years.

Kalani Rosell of Wailuku, a junior at the school's Maui campus, enrolled in 2002 after the list of qualified Hawaiian students was exhausted. His admission brought protests from Hawaiian groups.

The other student, Brayden Kekoa Mohica-Cummings, was ordered to be accepted at the school's main Kapalama campus on Oahu in 2003 after U.S. District Judge David Ezra approved an injunction filled by Big Island attorney John Goemans, who is also representing the teenager in the current lawsuit.

In Mohica-Cummings' case, the boy and his mother filed suit after the school admitted him but later tried to turn him away, saying the boy's Hawaiian ancestry could not be established.

The lawsuit was later dropped in a deal with the school.

E-mail to City Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- http://archives.starbulletin.com