August 12, 2005
Written by C.N.
The Associated Press reports that a federal appeals court just ruled that the private Kamehameha Schools, designed to educate Native Hawaiians, cannot bar non-Native Hawaiians from attending, even though the school does not receive any public funds:
Overturning a lower court, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in San Francisco ruled 2-1 Tuesday that the practice at the private school violates federal civil rights law even though the institution receives no federal funding. [Hawaiian] Gov. Linda Lingle called the decision “incredibly unfortunate,” saying it underscores the need for a bill, pending in the U.S. Senate, that would grant federal recognition to Native Hawaiians.
The Kamehameha Schools were established under the 1883 will of a Hawaiian princess to educate “the children of Hawaii.” The admission policy was created to remedy the disadvantages suffered by Hawaiians after the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. But the appeals court judges said they “do not read that document to require the use of race as an admissions prerequisite.”
About 5,100 Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian students from kindergarten through 12th grade attend the three campuses, which are partly funded by a trust now worth $6.2 billion. Admission is highly prized in Hawaii because of the quality of education and the relatively low cost. The case was brought by an unidentified non-Hawaiian student who was turned down for admission in 2003.
Obviously I am not a legal scholar or lawyer, but it does seem a little strange to me that (1) the Kamehameha Schools have to follow federal admissions guidelines even though they do not receive any public funding and (2) they cannot continue to operate solely for Native Hawaiians even though many girls-only schools have been judged as constitutional and legal.
I wrote earlier that there is currently a bill in Congress that will grant Native Hawaiians the same legal status and rights as Native Americans. As Hawai’i's governor notes, this ruling underscores the need for the federal legislature to recognize the unique history and experiences of Native Hawaiians and the legality of their ethnic-specific programs.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Racial Preferences at Native Hawaiian School" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2005/08/racial-preferences-at-native-hawaiian-school/> ().
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