Court Hears Hawaiians-only Admissions Challenge

SAN FRANCISCO (KHNL) - Kamehameha Schools admissions policy, giving preference to students with Hawaiian blood was back before a federal panel of judges.

In 2003 a lawsuit was filed by a non-Hawaiian student who charged the admissions policy is discriminatory.

Last august, a panel of the appeals court ruled 2-1 the policy does violate federal civil rights law.

But at the request of the schools, the 9th circuit withdrew that decision and ordered today's hearing before a panel of 15 judges.

The 15 judges used barely an hour to hear arguments both for and against a policy that has stood firm for 119 years.

Attorney Kathleen Sullivan argued on behalf of the schools.

"What we argue is they're also entirely legal under our civil rights laws because they address the continuing harms suffered from a legacy of devastation congress has acknowledged and apologized for on behalf of the Native Hawaiian people".

Sullivan also argued the schools success in lifting up hawaiian children.

But the plaintiffs attorney, Eric Grant argued the admissions policy is racially exclusionary against all non Hawaiian children.

"And that acts as an absolute bar to the children attending the school

and that under a very traditional civil rights law as determined by the courts and by the 9th circuit, that is illegal".

Grant further argued the laws of our nation apply to Hawaii and to native Hawaiians. And because congress has done nothing to change that, Kamehameha's admissions policy is illegal under existing law.

Courtroom observers say some judges appeared sympathetic to the Schools. Some seemed to support the unnamed plaintiff and others appeared neutral.

A decision could take as long as a year.