The last remaining court challenge to Kamehameha Schools’ admissions policy giving preference to native Hawaiians came to an end yesterday when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case of four unidentified students who contended the practice violates federal civil rights laws.
The court denied without comment a request by the non-Hawaiian students to proceed with their lawsuit without disclosing their identities because they feared racial attacks.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that federal judges in Hawaii did not err when they found the students’ fears were "unreasonable."
The students had asked the high court to review the appeals court ruling.
"We have believed from the outset that if this case were to proceed it should do so as openly and honestly as possible, and we are gratified that the courts agree," Kamehameha Chief Executive Officer Dee Jay Mailer and the schools’ trustees said in a message on the schools’ website.
Ann Botticelli, the schools’ spokeswoman, said there is no other lawsuit challenging the admissions policy.
The students’ lawyers, Eric Grant of Sacramento, Calif., and David Rosen of Honolulu, issued a statement saying they were disappointed because the refusal "means the illegality of Kamehameha’s policy will continue to evade scrutiny."
The high court’s action "is in no way an endorsement of that policy," they said.
"We have always believed, and continue to believe, that disclosing the names of minor children in face of the documented threats would be reckless," the lawyers said. "Our clients’ parents agree and have made the responsible decision not to risk the safety of their children.
"Accordingly, the present case is finished."
The lawyers did not say whether they would represent others willing to disclose their names and challenge the admissions policy.
But in their statement, they said, "Regrettably, we believe that this precedent will make it extremely difficult for the illegality of Kamehameha Schools’ racially exclusionary admissions policy to be resolved in the courts."
The suit was filed after an unnamed student and his mother settled their lawsuit challenging the admissions policy for $7 million in 2007.
Kamehameha Schools did not object to that student proceeding anonymously, but argued for disclosure after the four filed their suit.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren and U.S. District Judge Michael Seabright ruled the four could not proceed anonymously and dismissed the suit.
In March last year a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision by the federal judges in Hawaii.
In November the appeals court turned down a request by the students’ lawyers for a larger panel to rehear the case. Two appeals judges wrote strong dissents, mentioning "Kill Haole Day" at Hawaii’s schools and contending that the four would be endangered in a "racially charged environment."
In defending their decision, the three judges who issued the earlier ruling pointed out that the names of juveniles in other significant civil rights cases had been disclosed, including the landmark 1954 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that outlawed segregation.
Grant and Rosen were not able to persuade the justices to take the case. Of some 10,000 requests for high court review, the justices accept only about 75 to 80 cases, according to the court.
Botticelli declined to say how much the schools paid in legal fees to defend the policy. The admissions policy has been the focus of court cases for years.