Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice has signed onto an amicus brief filed by Brown Rudnick LLP, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts in support of the Boston School Committee’s Admissions Plan for Boston Exam Schools for the 2021-22 academic year. The interim Admissions Plan was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and would also address long-standing issues of racial, socioeconomic, and geographic diversity in Boston’s three elite education institutions: the Boston Latin School, the Boston Latin Academy, and the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science.
The changes to the Exam Schools admissions process being challenged include: 1) elimination of the entrance exam, 2) allocation of 20% of seats based on GPA, and 3) allocation of the remaining 80% of seats based on a combination of student GPA and home ZIP code, with each ZIP code receiving seats based on the percentage of school-aged children living in that ZIP code. These changes would help ensure talented and capable students from a diverse range of communities have equitable access to the high-quality educational opportunities Exam Schools provide.
The legal challenge to the plan was brought by the Boston Parent Coalition for Academic Excellence Corporation, a group of parents and students from high-income neighborhoods who stand to lose seats under the new plan. The lawsuit was filed against the School Committee and argues the Admissions Plan is unconstitutional on the basis that ZIP codes are being used as a proxy for race.
As the brief notes, while race, poverty, and geography are undoubtedly linked – particularly against the backdrop of Boston’s long history of segregation – this argument fails to recognize Boston’s diversity within and across ZIP codes. Additionally, the Admissions Plan does not classify students by race, but uses ZIP codes to improve the prospect of Exam Schools reflecting the diversity of Boston’s entire student population. There are also compelling and legitimate goals the Admissions Plan takes steps towards; for example, providing the educational benefits of a diverse student body, which students carry with them into the workforce, and repairing the harms of past discrimination.
“Massachusetts Appleseed is proud to join Brown Rudnick LLP, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts, and nearly two dozen allies in educational and racial justice to support the Boston School Committee’s proposed Admissions Plan,” said Deborah Silva, Executive Director of Massachusetts Appleseed. “Education can make a radical difference in a child’s life, and all Boston students should have a fair and equitable opportunity to access the resources and academic rigor available at Boston Exam Schools. This policy would open the doors to students who have been too often left behind – low-income students, students experiencing homelessness, and students of color whose families have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, LatinoJustice PLRDEF, Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts, American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, Autism Sprinter, Center for Law and Education, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice at Harvard Law School, Citizens for Public Schools, EdVestors, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, Greater Boston Association of Black Social Workers, Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), Hispanic Federation, Jamaica Plain Progressives, Mass Insight Education & Research, Massachusetts Advocates for Children, Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Northeastern University School of Law, Center for Health Policy and Law, Progressive West Roxbury/Roslindale, Quality Education for Every Student (QUEST), Roslindale is for Everyone (RISE), VISIONS, Inc.
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