Patience, tolerance needed in school case


POSTED: Monday, March 09, 2009

A legal quarrel over whether to make public the names of non-Hawaiian youths challenging Kamehameha Schools' Hawaiians-only admission policy is likely to significantly delay their lawsuit. If they are forced to abandon their anonymity and win the case, the onus will be on Kamehameha to assure their safety.

Federal court rules specify the “;presumption of openness in judicial proceedings.”; U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright dismissed the lawsuit brought by children identified only as Lisa, Karl, Jacob and Janet Doe four months after a magistrate required that they reveal their true identities. The children's attorneys are appealing the decision.

The rules allow the identity of plaintiffs in civil lawsuits to be kept hidden if they “;would risk suffering injury if identified.”; Eric Grant, one of the youths' attorneys, says threats and inflammatory rhetoric have surrounded the case.

Indeed, the issue of whether the admission policy is unlawful and should be changed has been highly emotional, but the angry letters to the Star-Bulletin have been less than incendiary.

Kalani Rosell, a non-Hawaiian who was allowed to attend Kamehameha Schools on Maui in 2002, said upon graduation two years ago that students would not talk to him at first. That quickly changed, he said, and his friends at the campus called him “;Snowy”; as a term of endearment.

Ann Botticelli, the schools' vice president for community relations, says the schools “;would never take an action that would place a child in danger.”; If the youthful plaintiffs reveal their identities, win admission to Kamehameha Schools and are injured as a result, Botticelli's assurance is sure to resound in court.