2017 in review: A beloved Hawaii institution comes to terms with its 'darkest days'

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The story of a prominent St. Francis psychiatrist who preyed on Kamehameha Schools students became one of 2017's biggest stories, even though it had been 50 years since the first assaults.

That's because this was the year that the victims, the institutions and the legal system finally faced the tragic reality of what happened.

The scope of the abuse was shocking: Dr. Robert Browne was a serial pedophile given access to dozens of middle school boys because of his role as St. Francis from late 50s and into the 1980s. He shot himself after being confronted by at least one of his many victims.

"It was a sense of betrayal," said one of those victims," Emmett Lee Loy. "They stole my childhood, years of it."

He and others thought they were alone as victims, but eventually more than 30 men and families of men sued Kamehameha Schools and St. Francis Hospital. The lawsuits blamed Kamehameha for sending the boys to Browne for treatment and alleged that school executives ignored evidence of what was happening.

"They're aware of what happened back then," said Lambert Lee Loy, Emmett Lee Loy's brother and a victim himself. "I think they should be chastised for enabling him, looking the other way and allowing this to happen."

In a videotaped deposition this summer, retired Kamehameha President Michael Chun told lawyers that back in 1991, he concluded that some allegations against Browne were valid. He referred the matter to the Bishop Estate legal department, and nothing happened.

In the deposition, Chun — who wasn't at Kamehameha Schools when the abuse happened — said his first concern was the current students.

But the survivors and many alumni were outraged that Kamehameha didn't react at the time. They didn't investigate further or even reach out to Browne patients to try to figure out how many boys were abused.

But finally this year, 50 years after the first claims of abuse surfaced, Kamehameha Schools apologized.

On the school's website Dec. 8, CEO Jack Wong wrote: "Not nearly enough was done. Truly, this represents the very darkest days for an institution charged with caring for and educating the most innocent among us, our keiki."

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