By Roberta Freeland Woods, J.D., M.L.I.Sc.
The Hawaiʻi Supreme Court handed down an opinion by Justice Pollack on Tuesday, August 13, that held that article X, section 4 of the Hawaiʻi Constitution, the Hawaiian education provision requires the State to “to institute a program that is reasonably calculated to revive the Hawaiian language.” Chief Justice Recktenwald wrote a concurring opinion and Justice Nakayama wrote a concurring and dissenting opinion.
Article X, section 4 came into
existence with the 1978 Constitutional Convention. Justice Pollack reviewed the
history of ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i and
Hawaiian education in the 49-page opinion stating that Hawaiian language
schools were widely available until the overthrow in 1893. Three years later,
the Republic of Hawaiʻi enacted
legislation mandating that only English be taught in schools, a law that was specifically
intended to eradicate knowledge of ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i in future generations.
The facts of the case involve a
Native Hawaiian mother of two daughters on Lāna‘i. The public schools on Lāna‘i
do not offer an immersion program, but a K-12 immersion program is offered on
five of the major Hawaiian Islands: O‘ahu, Maui, Hawai‘i Island, Moloka‘i, and
Kaua‘i. Prior to moving to Lāna‘i the two daughters had been enrolled in the
Kaiapuni Educational Program, an ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i immersion program
at Pā‘ia Elementary School on the island of Maui. Both children were only able
to read and write in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i when they began attending Lāna‘i School.
Adequate instruction in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i was not provided partly because the
Department of Education has been unable to attract qualified teachers to live
Read the majority opinion in
Clarabal ex rel. C.M.K.C. v. Department of Education, SCAP-16-0000475, on
the Judiciary website at https://www.courts.state.hi.us/opinions_and_orders/opinions.