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Appeals Court to Rehear Admissions Policy Challenge

9th Circuit grants Kamehameha Schools’ petition for en banc review

HONOLULU (www.ksbe.edu) - The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed earlier today to rehear the legal challenge to Kamehameha Schools’ 118-year-old policy of offering admissions preference to applicants of Hawaiian ancestry. The rehearing, known as an en banc review, was granted by court order earlier today. Under the court’s order the case will be reargued on a date to be scheduled before a panel of 15 Ninth Circuit judges.

"We are pleased to be able to present our arguments to a larger court panel,” said Kamehameha Trustee-chair Robert Kihune. “It signals that the appeals court agrees that this lawsuit raises unique issues of exceptional importance to Native Hawaiians. We are a private school founded by a Native Hawaiian princess for the education of Native Hawaiians and funded entirely by the income from our land holdings and investments. We are hopeful that when the case is reheard the court will affirm the U.S. District Court decision and allow Kamehameha to continue to direct our resources to those children who are in need of our programs and are the intended beneficiaries of this trust.”

A three-judge appeals court panel overturned Kamehameha Schools’ admissions policy last August in a 2-1 decision. Schools officials immediately vowed to seek a rehearing. The schools’ petition for en banc review was supported by 12 amicus briefs filed by 44 individuals or organizations, including the State of Hawaii, the City and County of Honolulu, the National Association of Independent Schools and various Hawaiian service organizations and Royal Trusts.

The schools preference policy remains in effect pending the outcome of the appeal.

“The preference policy is critical to our ability to fulfill our educational mission and we are fully committed to the legal fight ahead,” said Kamehameha Schools CEO Dee Jay Mailer. “At the same time, we are moving forward with plans to extend our educational reach further into Hawaiian communities. We have already embarked on a plan to more than double the number of children we currently serve.

“We have committed $55 million dollars this year for community outreach programs that target Hawaiian keiki under the age of eight and their parents and caregivers. We are providing more support to preschools and other early childhood education programs. We have tailored our post-high scholarship programs to serve young mothers and others who are among the neediest in our population. We have provided more funding for charter schools with large Hawaiian students populations.

“Pauahi felt a kuleana to provide educational opportunities for the Hawaiian people. She entrusted that kuleana to the leadership of Kamehameha Schools. We will not let her down.”

Chairman Kihune added, “Kamehameha is an institution of exceptional importance to both Native Hawaiians and all of Hawai’i. The programs Kamehameha provides to Native Hawaiian children are intended to help remedy the continuing effects of past wrongs suffered by the Native Hawaiian people. Kamehameha has had great success helping Native Hawaiian children but much remains to be done, and the needs of Native Hawaiian children far outstrip Kamehameha’s ability to provide needed services. Last year’s panel decision would have required Kamehameha to offer its programs to children who do not need them, while turning away Native Hawaiian children who need access to Kamehameha’s programs.”

Established in 1884 through the last will and testament of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, Kamehameha Schools operates K-12 campuses on O’ahu, Hawai’i and Maui and 32 preschool sites statewide. Thousands of other learners are also being served through a range of educational outreach programs and community collaborations throughout the state.

En banc decision from 9th Circuit (Adobe Acrobat file)