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June 21st, 2006

“Not Allowed” Is Sometimes Ok

Kamehameha Schools in Hawaii are under fire for their exclusive admissions policy. While I'm usually the first to rally behind equality for all, and rage against discrimination in any form, I don't see a problem with the Kamehameha Schools allowing only native Hawaiians admittance.

Read the article and see if you don't agree:

Hawaiian school admissions questioned

By MARK NIESSE, Associated Press Writer

A wealthy private school created exclusively for its indigenous people is asking a federal appeals court to allow it to continue its race-based admissions policy.

Fifteen judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals were scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday in San Francisco about whether the Kamehameha Schools can continue to limit enrollment to Native Hawaiians.

While the courts have generally ruled against favoritism in education based on race, the Kamehameha case is different. The school receives no federal money. And its policy was based on the will of a Hawaiian princess 10 years before the monarchy was overthrown.

"Her whole intent was to provide a means for educating her people so they could compete in a society that was changing so quickly," said Kekoa Paulsen, a spokesman for Kamehameha Schools.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit initially ruled 2-1 against Kamehameha's admissions policy last August. But the full court announced in February it would reconsider that decision. The admissions policy has remained in place while appeals are pending.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of an unnamed white student who was denied admission in 2003.

"We've had a lot of conflict, including the Civil War, about treating people differently based on their race. I think we're mostly past that, but unfortunately Kamehameha wants to go back to an era of privilege for citizens depending on what race you are," said Eric Grant, a Sacramento, Calif., attorney representing the boy, who recently graduated from a public school.

Kamehameha Schools was established under the 1883 will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop as part of a trust now worth $6.8 billion. Part of the school's mission is to counteract historical disadvantages Native Hawaiians face in employment, education and society.

Admission to the elite school is first granted to all qualified Native Hawaiian students. Only one in eight eligible applicants get in, and tuition is 60 percent subsidized by the private trust.

Of 5,400 students enrolled at the school's three K-12 campuses, only two do not have Hawaiian ancestry.

The case is an emotional one here, with Native Hawaiians claiming they are rightfully entitled to a quality education, and taking that away would further undermine their culture.

Following the initial ruling against Kamehameha last year, 15,000 people marched through downtown Honolulu in protest.

"We're not asking for a handout. We're asking to be able to take care of our own," said Miki Kim, a 1976 Kamehameha Schools graduate who organized a rally last fall supporting the school. "This country is not fair."

Private schools have long had their own, particular set of ideals and standards for the students they allow to be educated within their walls. I see absolutely nothing wrong with a Hawaiian private school wanting to accept only Hawaii-native students; especially if the school is tailored towards Hawaiian children and their needs in making it in a non-Hawaiian world.
The school has operated thus since 1883 and - obviously - has done well for itself and its students. Why mess with a long-held tradition that is unique to the Hawaiians?

Because someone sued. Because someone, obviously a non-native Hawaiian, felt a desire to attend a school not for him and that he, likely, never would have fit in with. He - and/or his parents - took his ruffled feathers to the courts, and now, after over one hundred and twenty years, this school may have to change its ways; indeed, it's core values.

Yes, yes, of course it's about equality; at face value it appears to be nothing more than denying people because of their race.  It's more than that, though.  Hawaiians are proud of, and trying to keep their culture strong.  Where is the harm in that?  Whom are they hurting by having an exclusive school in their home state, other than nit-picky people who feel a need to stick their hands in everything?  This isn't about race.  This about a culture and a struggle to preserve that culture.

A great injustice will be done if Kamehameha Schools are forced to open their doors to non-native Hawaiians.

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