Court nixes case over anonymity at Hawaiian school

By the Associated Press | May 16, 2011 | 4:43 PM EDT

HONOLULU (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has 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 on Monday left in place lower court rulings against four non-Hawaiian students who object 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. It wasn't immediately clear Monday if their names would be released; an attorney for the students previously said they likely would drop the suit if they couldn't remain anonymous.

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.

The system teaches preschool through 12th grade and operates several campuses on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island.

The Supreme Court's decision Monday preserves a series of decisions 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."

An attorney for the students, David Rosen, said at the time that they may have to drop the case if their names were made public.

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.