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Kamehameha Schools Admission Policy Under Fire

What will the outcome be?


Photo of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop

Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop (1831-1884)

Hawaii State Archives
So, having examined the actual will, as well as potential stumbling blocks and the precedents for change, one wonders where all of this will lead. What will eventually happen with the admissions policy of Kamehameha Schools?

My personal feeling is that after several more years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually rule against the trustees of the estate and that the admission policy will change.

That change will require that the school admit applicants of all races based on a set of criteria which may indeed continue to give preference to "orphans, and others in indigent circumstances."

Should this occur, it will no doubt infuse even more fervor into the Hawaiian sovereignty movement. The will was written in 1883, prior to the illegal annexation of Hawaii by the United States. Now, United States law is overturning the wishes of a citizen of a sovereign nation.

It's easy to cite legal precedent and law and justify a change in the school's admission policy. It's easy to say that any discrimination based on race is wrong. It's just as easy, however, to say that one should be entitled to spend their money in any way that they see fit.

Unfortunately, those who will suffer here are the boys and girls of Hawaiian descent. The Kamehameha Schools provide a superior education for these children which they cannot get in the Hawaiian public school system. The Kamehameha Schools foster a pride in their history and culture.

Everything in the legal system points to the eventual forced change in the school's admission policy. Unfortunately, however, that does not mean that changing it is the right thing to do.

Addendum: In August 2005, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, in a 2-1 ruling, reversed the decision of the U.S. District Court and declared that Kamehameha Schools' admission policy is racially exclusionary and hence violates a federal law against racial discrimination in the making and enforcing of contracts.

If the decision is not reversed Kamehameha Schools will be forced to admit large numbers of non-Hawaiian students. It is expected that a petition will be filed to have the case reviewed by the entire court or that an appeal will be filed directly with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Author's note:

The Bishop Estate Trust is the State of Hawaii's largest private landowner and one of the nation's wealthiest charities, with an estimated worth of $6 billion.

Kamehameha Schools provides education for 4,800 students from kindergarten through 12th grade on its three campuses — the main Kapalama campus on Oahu, the Maui campus in Pukalani and the Big Island campus in Keaau. There are about 50,000 native Hawaiian students being educated in Hawaii's public school system.

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