Legislators push to name Kihei high school for Patsy Mink

HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

Legislators push to name Kihei high school for Patsy Mink

The Maui native and co-author of Title IX served 12 terms in the U.S. House

By Nanea Kalani / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 23, 2014

Kihei’s long-awaited public high school could be named after Patsy Mink, the late congresswoman and Maui native who battled gender discrimination and racism throughout her academic and political careers.

A bill — signed on to by all 25 state senators — would require the Department of Education to name the yet-to-be-built Kihei campus the Patsy Takemoto Mink High School.

Mink — a Democrat who served as a U.S. representative for Hawaii from 1965 to 1977 and again from 1990 until 2002, the year she died — “deserves an appropriate memorial to recognize her legacy,” the bill’s authors wrote.

Senate Bill 2446 was introduced last week with Sen. Michelle Kidani, vice chairwoman of the Senate Education and Ways and Means committees, as the lead sponsor.

“This is important to me because I want to make sure that the legacy of Patsy Takemoto Mink, as well as her Title IX monumental legislation that has helped so many women … lives on,” Kidani (D, Mililani-Waikele-Kunia) said. “I want the students of today to remember her.”

Kidani said she received the family’s blessing for the proposal.

South Maui Sen. Roz Baker, a strong advocate for building the high school and a lead co-sponsor of the bill, added: “Patsy really devoted her life to gender equality, equal opportunity — all of the wonderful things we hope inspire not only young women but young men as well.”

Mink was raised in Paia, Maui, and graduated at the top of her class from Maui High School in 1944. She went on to earn undergraduate degrees in zoology and chemistry at the University of Hawaii, with plans to attend medical school.

“Despite her stellar academic record, she was refused admission to more than a dozen medical schools because she was a woman,” the bill says.

Mink went on to attend the University of Chicago School of Law, graduating as one of only two female students in her class in 1951. She was the first Japanese-American to practice law in Hawaii and later became the first Asian-American woman and woman of color in Congress.

Her personal and professional experiences dealing with sexism led her in 1972 to co-author landmark federal legislation largely known as Title IX. The law, which bars discrimination based on sex in educational programs receiving federal funding, opened up higher education and athletic opportunities to women. It has since been renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Edu

cation Act.

No other public schools in the islands appear to be named after a female politician, according to a list of the DOE’s 255 campuses.

Two Oahu schools are named after male congressional delegates who served when Hawaii was a U.S. territory: Prince Jonah Kuhio Elementary School and William P. Jarrett Middle School.

A sprawling city park in Waipio carries Mink’s name. The Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Regional Park was renamed in 2007 to bear the late congresswoman’s name.

Last year, lawmakers approved $130 million in capital improvement funds for the Kihei high school, which Baker said has been talked about since at least the 1990s.

An environmental impact statement for the project says more than 700 students from Kihei attend high schools outside of their community, resulting in overcrowding at Baldwin and Maui high schools in Kahului.

The Kihei campus is expected to take two years to build and could be ready for the 2016-17 school year, according to the environmental review, which Gov. Neil Abercrombie approved in 2012.