Originally established in 1887 as an all-boys school for native Hawaiian children, it shared its grounds with the Bishop Museum.
After it moved to another location, the museum took over two school halls.
Kamehameha Schools opened its girls' school in 1894. The 600-acre (2.4 km It was developed at the bequest of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop to educate children of Hawaiian descent, and is designed to serve students from preschool through twelfth grade.
Mandating community service high schools
In 1991, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought suit against Kamehameha Schools alleging that its requirement that all teachers be Protestant was religious discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Although Kamehameha Schools conceded the practice was discriminatory, the School maintained that it was bound by the provisions of Bernice Pauahi Bishop's will, which established the charitable trust creating the School as well as mandating that all the teachers "be persons of the Protestant religion." Accordingly, the School sought to be included within one of the applicable exemptions to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The United States District Court for the District of Hawaii found in the School's favor, ruling that the religious education exemption, the religious curriculum exemption, and the bona fide occupational qualification exemption were each applicable to Kamehameha Schools.
It operates 31 preschools statewide and three grade K–12 campuses in Kapālama, Oi.
By the terms of its founding, the schools' admissions policy prefers applicants with Native Hawaiian ancestry.
Since 1965 it has excluded all but two non-Hawaiians from being admitted.A lawsuit challenging the school's admission policy resulted in a narrow victory for Kamehameha in the Ninth Circuit Court; however, Kamehameha ultimately settled, paying the plaintiff million.Bernice named Samuel Mills Damon, William Owen Smith, Charles Montague Cooke, Charles Mc Ewen Hyde, and her husband, Charles Reed Bishop, as the original five trustees to invest her estate at their discretion, use the income to operate the schools, and also "to devote a portion of each year's income to the support and education of orphans, and others in indigent circumstances, giving the preference to Hawaiians of pure or part aboriginal blood." She also directed the Hawai After Bishop's death in 1884, her husband Charles Reed Bishop carried out her will.Reverend William Brewster Oleson (1851–1915), former principal of the Hilo boarding school founded by David Belden Lyman in 1836, helped organize the schools on a similar model of European-American education.The original Kamehameha School for Boys opened in 1887; after it moved to a new campus, that site was later taken over by the Bishop Museum. The preparatory school, originally serving grades K–6, opened in 1888 adjacent to the boys' school.By 1955, all three schools had moved to the current 600-acre (2.4 kmi.