Lawsuit by former Kamehameha students alleges decades of sex abuse

Former Kamehameha Schools students have stepped forward saying they were sexually abused while they attended the school. Their claims were outlined in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in State Circuit Court by their attorney, Michael Green.

Green says for now, he is representing eight men who all say they were sexually abused and molested at the hands of Dr. Robert McCormick Browne, a psychiatrist who Green says worked for Kamehameha Schools and conducted so-called therapy sessions on the students, falling within a 21-year period from 1958-1981. Green says, at the time, Browne was the Chief of Psychiatry at St. Francis Medical Center and the boys were all younger than 16 years old.

“Many of them had minor problems at Kamehameha Schools when they were young, from 7th grade and 8th grade, and they were referred to Dr. Brown,” said Green. “If they did not see Dr. Brown, the threat was (they would) get expelled.”

Green says Dr. Browne died in 1991. According to the lawsuit, the so-called therapy sessions took place at the doctor’s home in Manoa along with a vacation home in Kamuela during weekend sleepovers. Green says the doctor was a dorm adviser and was given access to students at their dorm rooms. Green says the victims also allege the sessions took place at the doctor’s office at St. Francis.

The lawsuit comes just as the statute of limitations on the filing of child sex and molestation cases is set to expire next month, a deadline that was set two years ago by the state legislature. But there is a move to grant yet another extension for those who are willing to come forward and file suit. KHON2 obtained a copy of Senate Bill 2687, a measure that would extend the statute of limitations even further. If this measure becomes law, complainants who allege child sexual abuse will get to file civil suits up until they turn the age of 55.

State Sen. Maile Shimabukuro introduced the bill and also won approval for the two-year extension that expires next month. As for the age of 55, Sen Shimabukuro said, “It’s a way to strike a compromise between the rights of the accused and the rights of the victims.”

The Senate bill has crossed over to the House and a hearing on the measure is scheduled before the Committee on Human Services on Thursday.

Kamehameha Schools says these are serious allegations and will not comment until after it has seen the lawsuit.

St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii says it will also not comment until after it has been served with the complaint.

Read SB 2687 in its entirety here.