Civil rights leaders say Boston examination faculty resolution may result in a everlasting change in admissions coverage

In a big move last fall, the school committee temporarily canceled the entrance exams to the Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy, and O’Bryant School of Math and Science because they felt it wasn’t safe to take the personal exams during the exam to pass the pandemic.

As part of the change, students will be admitted to exam schools based primarily on their grades and, in some cases, MCAS scores. Seats are also allocated by postcode, with top priority being given to areas with the lowest median household income. The number of seats per postcode is proportional to the proportion of school-age children living there.

Although the changes are valid for one year, the school committee has set up a task force to recommend a permanent revision of the admission guideline for examining schools, which is expected to be presented later this year. Sullivan said the judge’s decision could help guide the work of the task force.

The Boston Parent Coalition for Academic Excellence Corp., which filed the lawsuit on behalf of 14 white and Asian applicants in February, argued that the school system was using zip codes as proxies for races to encourage enrollment for black and Latin American students. As a result, the coalition said the plan was discriminatory.

But the judge disagreed. Young said the use of zip codes “does not result in racial discrimination against students”.

The plaintiffs have already lodged a complaint with the First Circuit. The one-page standardized form did not give details of what specific aspects of the court ruling they wanted to set aside and on what basis their reasoning would be based.

A Boston school representative said Thursday that the school system will continue to process admission decisions and send students admission letters by the end of the month – unless the court tells them not to.

Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director for civil rights lawyers, described the judge’s decision as “just wonderful to see”. The organization was one of several that provided free legal services in defense of the changes to the exam school.

“This result makes it clear that there are no reserved places in the highly selective schools,” he said. “There is no entitlement to a seat in a highly selective school and this has several immediate implications. First, it helps us protect color students – black students, Latinx students, and Asian-American students – who would otherwise have been excluded. “

Espinoza-Madrigal said he particularly appreciated that the judge said that “the equality clause is not a bulwark for the status quo and that it is indeed a laudable endeavor based entirely on scrutiny of the Constitutional precedent and on Boston’s troubled race is appropriate and socio-economic history. “

The parents’ coalition had argued that the temporary admission plan, in violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal treatment clause, wrongly denied access to Asian and white applicants by developing an admissions process that would favor black and Latin American applicants.

An initial analysis by a working group that developed the admissions plan found that the changes would likely lead to an increase in black and Latin American applicants, while Asian and white applicants would have fewer seats than in previous years.

The Boston school system has had problems accepting students into its three exam schools for decades, in a way that reflects the district’s demographics.

At the most sought-after exam school, the Boston Latin School, 45 percent of the 2,500 students are white and 29 percent are Asian, three times as many as in the school district. Black and Latin American students combined make up only 21 percent of the seats, although they make up 72 percent of all students in the entire district.

However, the O’Bryant School of Math and Science has a student population more closely related to the racial makeup of the school system’s student population, while the Boston Latin Academy sits somewhere between the two exam schools.

Although the license change upset many Asian-American families in Boston, it was also supported by many activists in the Asian-American community, including the Asian Pacific Islander Civic Action Network and the Asian American Resource Workshop.

“Asian-American community groups and families are proud to partner with black and Latin American organizations in this ongoing battle for educational justice,” said Bethany Li, director of the Asian Outreach Unit at Greater Boston Legal Services and co-counsel for interveners on the case.

“We see Asians in Chinatown in the South End and we see them in Dorchester living side by side with the black community,” she said. “What we also see every day is that the inability to access quality education can vary greatly depending on family circumstances. Discrimination is a reality for the students and families we work with. Asian immigrants also face language barriers that are often ignored.

“That is why we will celebrate that wind today with the diversity represented in this lawsuit, especially at this moment as we see increasing violence against our communities in so many forms.”

James Vaznis can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @globevaznis.

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