Among Kamehameha Schools alums, no consensus on how to handle sex abuse case

Published: Nov. 30, 2017 at 11:48 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 1, 2017 at 10:50 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Within the Kamehameha Schools ohana, many are expressing compassion for what the victims of a sex abuse scandal endured and regret over how their cases were allegedly mishandled.

But there's little consensus on how to resolve the legal dispute.

"I'm fairly certain that this happened to people I know," said Brendon Lee, president of the Oahu chapter of the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association.

"It's frightening, it's sad and it's scary that this type of thing happened then."

Lee said he hopes both sides can resolve the legal dispute so the victims can get the proper treatment and closure.

But he also said he worries that a costly legal battle and potentially huge payout will impact the school's mission of educating native Hawaiians.

"That is concerning. Any type of monetary settlement that comes out of the trust affects future generations," he said.

Over nearly three decades, from 1958 to 1985, a psychiatrist who served as a consultant to the school sexually abused boys at Kamehameha Schools, victims say and the school has acknowledged, and he made clear to them that they had to keep quiet about the assaults.

His victims, who have filed suit against Kamehameha Schools and St. Francis Hospital and who are preparing for a courtroom battle next year, say while the veil of secrecy surrounding Dr. Robert Browne was powerful, there were several Kamehameha Schools executives and other employees who should have known about what was happening — and could have intervened while Browne was still abusing boys.

It's unclear how much it would cost to settle the case since there are more than 30 sex assault victims. But any settlement or jury award would likely  be in the tens of millions of dollars.

Former Trustee Henry Peters said the estate -- valued at over $8 billion -- has an obligation to settle the case.

"They're victims. Take care of the victims first, OK? Because you're a party to it by allowing it to fester and exist and continue," said Peters.

"There's enough money in there to take care."

Peters said the school should be starting its own investigation instead of just fighting the lawsuit.

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