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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, August 3, 2005

John Doe v. Kamehameha Schools

Advertiser Staff


Ruling: In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Kamehameha Schools' "Hawaiians first" policy of admitting only students with Hawaiian blood before considering others violates federal civil rights laws.

Vote: Appeals Court judges Robert Breezer and Jay Bybee joined in the majority decision. Appeals Court judge Susan Graber issued a partial dissent.

Princess's will: The majority 37-page decision does not overturn the 1884 will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop that established Kamehameha Schools. The majority noted that the will did not establish race as a requirement for admission. The policy was established by the original trustees who thought it was her intent to prefer Native Hawaiian students.

Schools' case:Kamehameha Schools argued the policy is an affirmative action plan to address disadvantages among Native Hawaiians. Statistically, they have low levels of educational achievement, are over-represented among the poor and homeless and under-represented in professional and managerial jobs.

"Absolute bar": The majority held that the argument does not justify the policy because it is an "absolute bar" to non-Native Hawaiians applying for admission. The "absolute bar" standard has been recognized by the courts in reviewing whether to uphold affirmative action plans.

Dissent: Graber wrote in dissent that Congress has recognized the severe socioeconomic and educational disadvantages among Native Hawaiians by authorizing federal money to Kamehameha Schools and others to provide loans and scholarships exclusively to students of Hawaiian blood. Congress could not have intended that the civil rights laws would bar every private program that provides "exclusive preference" to Native Hawaiians, she wrote.