By CLAUDINE SAN NICOLAS
PUKALANI – Following a landmark loss in federal court, Kamehameha Schools supporters are turning to prayer and sign waving to protest the ruling against its century-old Hawaiian preference admissions policy.
"We are committed to pursuing all avenues to defend our school policy," Maui Headmaster Rod Chamberlain said Tuesday afternoon.
Chamberlain said the Maui campus will open Aug. 11 as planned with 1,120 students filling the Pukalani campus in kindergarten through grade 12. This school year is noteworthy at the Maui campus because it features the first senior class slated to graduate from the Valley Isle branch of the schools.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the Kamehameha Schools admissions policy of giving preference to students of Hawaiian ancestry is based on race. The appeals ruling reversed a summary judgment issued by U.S. District Judge Alan Kay allowing the school to deny admission to an otherwise qualified non-Hawaiian student.
Kamehameha Schools was established in 1884 through a trust created by the will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. Her will directed that a portion of her income be used to educate children, "giving the preference to Hawaiians of pure and part aboriginal blood."
"It was never to be a racial thing. This is a breaking of a person's will," said Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr., an adviser to the Kamehameha Maui Campus as well as to the Kamehameha board of trustees.
Maxwell said he found the 9th Circuit decision "very demoralizing" for Native Hawaiians.
"This is traumatic for Hawaiians, and not only for Hawaiians, but anyone who leaves a will," he said.
Kamehameha Schools' admissions policy was created to remedy socioeconomic and educational disadvantages suffered by Hawaiians as a result of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.
Maxwell said he believed the princess established her school to address the social ills experienced by the Hawaiian people including homelessness, substance use, poor health and inadequate education.
"We're still trying to recover from being colonized," Maxwell said. He said the princess' will is "still addressing the social ills of her people."
Maxwell said he talked with school executives on Oahu and advised them to pursue all legal avenues.
"This is not the end," Maxwell promised.
Retired Judge Boyd Mossman, a Kamehameha graduate and past president of the Maui chapter of the school's alumni association, disagreed with the appeals court's ruling.
"All I can say is, it is a sad day in Hawaiian history.
"Hopefully, the Hawaiians will be able to recover," Mossman added.
State Sen. J. Kalani English, a graduate of Kamehameha Schools who said the education he received there was "the ingredient that gave me success today," was discouraged by the news.
"It's a real sad ruling for us," he said. "It's another indicator that we can't find justice in this system."
English acknowledged that most recent court decisions have gone against Hawaiians-only programs. He wonders where it will end.
"Looking at the large picture of the Hawaiian issue, eventually all entitlements and programs for Native Hawaiians are going to be attacked or challenged," he said.
If the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is challenged, it could be "the undoing of statehood," he said, pointing out that, as a provision of statehood in 1959, the new state government of Hawaii was to administer the programs created by the federally mandated Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1921.
"I think eventually it will be at that point where statehood is questioned," he said. "The fundamental question in Hawaii will be: Was statehood constitutional? If it's found that it wasn't, what is our status?"
Maxwell is also troubled by possible challenges against Hawaiian homelands. "We're going to get big-time political unrest," he said.
A non-Hawaiian, Donna Pico of Makawao, did not want to comment on the latest court ruling.
Pico said she supports a Catholic education for her three children, but during school breaks has explored other options, including sending her two daughters to the summer school at the Kamehameha Maui Campus.
Earlier this summer, Pico's 5th-grade daughter attended Kamehameha's Explorations program, which features a week of Hawaiiana activities on the Oahu campus. The students engaged in lessons in Hawaiian culture and history and music. They also snorkeled and went on excursions to taro fields.
Pico said Kamehameha's summer programs are excellent. "I have nothing bad to say about them," she said.
Based on her children's summer experiences, Pico said she has no doubt that Kamehameha Schools provides a high-quality education for its Hawaiian students.
She said she has never had her children apply for the regular school year.
"I've never tried because we're not Hawaiian," Pico said, "but I can't say I'll never try."
Margaret Santos, another non-Hawaiian parent from Kahului, has also sent her two daughters to Kamehameha Maui's summer school. She's also applied to have her daughters enroll during the regular school year at the Maui campus. One of her daughters was placed on a wait list, but neither of them has been accepted.
"I always encourage non-Hawaiians to apply," Santos said. "All they (Kamehameha admissions officials) can say is no."
Santos first tried to get her older daughter registered at the Kamehameha Maui Campus after the first non-Hawaiian was admitted in fall 2002. At that time, Kamehameha officials said Kalani Rosell was admitted because he was a qualified candidate and there were no other Native Hawaiian students who were qualified for admission in his grade level.
Rosell has flourished at Kamehameha as a straight-A student and swimming standout, but his family was not available to comment on the court decision.
Santos said she found the application process time-consuming, but would consider it worth the trouble if her daughters were ever accepted.
"They have tremendous opportunities up there with the beautiful campus," she said.
Following protests of the first non-Hawaiian's admittance to the Maui campus, Kamehameha officials announced in 2002 that they would remove potential barriers in the admissions process. Such barriers included application fees and the cutoff standard during the evaluation of student candidates.
While the school was to continue its search for the "best and brightest" Hawaiian students, it said it would emphasize in its student candidate evaluations the overall potential of each children.
Kamehameha's former chief executive officer, Hamilton McCubbin, explained in 2002 that the school has accepted non-Hawaiians in the past when applications from Native Hawaiians have been exhausted.
Chamberlain said Tuesday that all slots have been filled for this school year and the earliest a new admissions policy would take effect would be for school year 2006-07.
For now though, a two-week automatic stay on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has been put into effect while the legal process runs its course. Chamberlain said Kamehameha Schools plans to file an appeal to an 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit. The panel would not include the three who just ruled against the schools.
Kiope Raymond, professor of Hawaiian studies and language at Maui Community College, worries about the "long-term negative ramification as far as the ability of Kamehameha Schools to reach the entire Hawaiian population."
"The princess had a preference for Hawaiians and she meant all Hawaiians. If Kamehameha Schools can't complete its mission and reach all Hawaiians, then a disservice has been done."
On Tuesday, Chamberlain said the school plans to continue to carry out its admissions preference policy, which already has begun to be implemented for school year 2006-07. Non-Hawaiians still can apply, but Native Hawaiians will be given preference.
"We have never said you can't apply," Chamberlain said, referring to non-Hawaiian applicants.
"Nothing changes for us. We are committed to our mission," he said.
In anticipation of a decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Kamehameha Schools officials had planned to carry out rallies on the Saturday following the court ruling.
Maui's rally begins at 4:30 p.m. Saturday on the lawn fronting Maui Community College on Kaahumanu Avenue. Chamberlain said the school is encouraging all people Ð Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians Ð to join him and others in prayer and sign waving.
Staff Writer Valerie Monson contributed to this report. Claudine San Nicolas can be reached at email@example.com.
Kamehameha Schools and supporters are holding rallies Saturday on Oahu, the Big Island and Maui to protest the appeals court decision against the schools' Hawaiian preference admissions policy. On Maui, the rally begins at 4:30 p.m. Saturday along Kaahumanu Avenue in front of Maui Community College. The event is open to the public.
Copyright © 2005 The Maui News.