Court Says Kamehameha Schools Race-Based Admission Policy is Unconstitutional-The Ruling is Expected to Heighten the Debate Over Racial Programs Catering to Native Hawaiians

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The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco yesterday ruled that the private, non-profit educational institution Kamehameha Schools can no longer racially discriminate against students who are not native Hawaiian who want to attend the school.

See the full 37-page ruling here:


The case, known as ”’John Doe vs. Kamehameha Schools”’, was brought by a non-Hawaiian student, now entering his senior year at a public school in Hawaii, who applied but was not admitted to Kamehameha Schools over the last four years.

The 2-to-1 written decision by the three-member panel on the case says the schools’ admission policy constitutes “unlawful race discrimination,” and that the private school’s policy violates federal civil rights law, including a law passed in 1866 to end racial discrimination against African Americans in the South.

Appeals Court Judges Robert Breezer and Jay Bybee joined in the majority decision, noting Congress has recognized Native Hawaiians in several federal programs, but did not give the institution a “blanket approval for private race discrimination.” Appeals Court judge Susan Graber issued a partial dissent.

Justices say the decision does not overturn the 1884 will of Hawaiian Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, which funded the establishment of Kamehameha Schools, noting the will did not say that race is a requirement for admission.

The policy of native Hawaiians-only was set forth by the first trustees of the school who believed the princess wanted to first educate students of Hawaiian ancestry.

As with a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court against the private, non-profit Hillsdale College in Michigan, the fact that the school no longer accepts federal funding did not help Kamehameha School





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