- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2005

HONOLULU (AP) — The prestigious Hawaiians-only Kamehameha School, which sits atop a lush green hillside with a panoramic view of Honolulu, is much beloved by its students and alumni. But the private school envisioned by a Hawaiian princess may be changing soon.

A non-Hawaiian teenager is suing the school over its admissions policy giving preference to applicants who can prove Hawaiian bloodlines.

The boy was rejected for admission in 2003, and his lawsuit led to a ruling earlier this month from a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the race-based policy violates federal anti-discrimination laws. The school is asking the full court to reconsider.

Michael Chun, headmaster of the school, said the admissions policy follows the 1883 will of Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the great-granddaughter and last direct royal descendant of Kamehameha the Great, who was concerned that Hawaiians would suffer disadvantages. Ten years after her death, the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown by a group of U.S. businessmen and sugar planters.

“Their culture was shredded, their spirit was broken, and their sense of sovereignty and independence was taken away,” Mr. Chun said. “She saw as one of the ways to help her people survive was through education.”

Since the appeals court ruling, alumni and other Native Hawaiians have risen to the school’s defense. On Aug. 20, about 400 marched in San Francisco to petition the full appeals court to review the admissions case. On Aug. 6, more than 15,000 demonstrated across the islands to protest what they see as an assault on their culture.

Since its humble start with several dozen boys, Kamehameha has expanded to campuses on other islands, becoming the largest and richest independent private elementary and secondary school in the nation.

About 5,100 Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian students from kindergarten through 12th grade attend classes on the school’s three campuses.

Funded by a $6.2 billion trust, Kamehameha is also Hawaii’s largest private landowner, with 365,000 acres, including resort, commercial and residential holdings.

Former student Joshua Irvine said textbooks could never teach him what he learned when he transferred to the Oahu campus from a public school in a poor neighborhood.

Poverty was no longer an issue, said Mr. Irvine, whose new friends wore collared blue and white uniforms and spoke “proper English,” instead of the pidgin English spoken among many local people. Mr. Irvine played flute in the school band and explored his passion for science in “top-notch” laboratories.

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