Court nixes case over anonymity at Hawaiian school

HONOLULU (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a dispute over whether to identify students challenging a private school system’s admissions policy that gives preference to those of Hawaiian ancestry.

The court’s action ends the lawsuit and leaves in place lower court rulings against four non-Hawaiian students who objected to the Kamehameha Schools’ policy.

The challengers, who applied for admission to Kamehameha in the 2008-09 school year, wanted to file their lawsuit anonymously because of concerns about public humiliation and retaliation if they were identified.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2009, but the students’ attorneys appealed and asked for the case to move forward while maintaining the students’ anonymity.

“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 Schools said in a statement signed by CEO Dee Jay Mailer and other school officials.

The students contended in their lawsuit that the private school system’s preference for Native Hawaiians is at odds with federal civil rights laws. Only a few non-Hawaiians have ever been admitted to Kamehameha Schools.

Attorneys for the students, Eric Grant and David Rosen, had argued that the students should be able to remain anonymous because of threats posted on the Internet and hostile remarks attached to the comments sections on local news stories about the admissions controversy.

“The four child-plaintiffs in this case sought to use pseudonyms to protect themselves from the serious documented threats to their physical safety,” the attorneys said in a statement Monday. “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. All of Hawaii has suffered as a result.”

The Supreme Court’s decision preserves a series of rulings and appeals dating to October 2008, when U.S. Magistrate Barry Kurren first ruled that the names of the children opposing the admissions policy should be made public.

Kurren said in his ruling that the severity of threats against the students didn’t justify keeping their names secret. He said at most, they’d have a “reasonable fear of social ostracization.”

A $9.1 billion nonprofit trust that operates Kamehameha Schools was established in 1883 by the will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.

The trust dedicated to educating Hawaiian children is one of the nation’s largest charities and the state’s largest private landowner with more than 360,000 acres.

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