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Law & Courts A National Roundup

Native Hawaiian School Wins Federal Court Battle Over Admissions Criteria

By Ann Bradley — December 12, 2006 1 min read

A full federal appeals court ruled last week that the Kamehameha Schools, a private school system in Hawaii that was founded to serve Native Hawaiian children, can continue its 120-year-old policy of offering preference in admissions to Native Hawaiians.

The decision by the majority of the 15-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, affirmed U.S. District Judge Alan C. Kay’s 2003 ruling in Doe v. Kamehameha Schools.

Judge Susan Graber, who wrote the opinion for the majority, said, “We took this case en banc to reconsider whether a Hawaiian private, nonprofit K-12 school that receives no federal funds violates [the law] by preferring Native Hawaiians in its admissions policy. We now answer ‘no’ to that question and, accordingly, affirm the district court.”

“We are elated,” Robert Kihune, the chairman of the schools’ five-member board of trustees, said in a statement on the school’s Web site. “The court ruled today that our policy is not racial discrimination, but a specific remedy for a specific people.”

Kamehameha Schools operates a statewide educational system; more than 6,500 students of Hawaiian ancestry are enrolled in K-12 campuses on three islands and at 31 preschool sites statewide.

A version of this article appeared in the December 13, 2006 edition of Education Week

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