Judge rules coalition of local minority groups can be heard in Boston exam schools case

BOSTON — The battle over equity in Boston’s three exam schools continued Tuesday after federal court Judge Mark Wolf allowed a coalition of Black, Latinx & Asian American community organizations to be heard in the lawsuit against Boston school leadership over a temporary program suspending the admissions test.

NAACP Boston President Tanisha Sullivan is the lead intervener who filed an emergency motion to be heard in support of BPS.

“Surely it is disappointing that we are here, however, this is what happens when we start to make progress,” Sullivan said.

In the federal court complaint, the newly formed Boston Parent Coalition for Academic Excellence [BPCAE] called the one-year program using student zip codes and pre-COVID-19 GPAs for exam school admissions unconstitutional.

“The Zip Code Quota Plan is likewise to disfavor certain racial and ethnic groups (Asian and White applicants) while favoring others (Latino and African-American applicants),” the organization said.

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“By depriving some school children of educational opportunity based on their race or ethnicity, Defendants do great harm, not only to the children they seek to exclude but also to the Boston Exam Schools,” the BPCAE added.

“Creating greater neighborhood equity is also an important element of this particular policy. Again, public schools in the City of Boston should be equitably available to all,” Sullivan said.

“‘There are a lot of questions about the best way to create more equity in the district long-term. I think this is an important step,” said Carolyn Chou of the Asian Pacific Islanders Civic Action Network [APICAN].

The Boston School Committee voted unanimously on the emergency COVID-19 measure last October. The coalition includes the Boston NAACP, Lawyers for Civil Rights, APICAN and three families of color.

Bethany Li is on the legal team representing the interveners who filed their own emergency motion in the case.

“‘There’s a lot of desire to make sure that Asian American students, Asian American families, parents aren’t used as a wedge in this conversation when we talk about a more equitable system,” Ali said.

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Boston 25 News reached out to the Boston parents group bringing the lawsuit; they were not available for comment Wednesday evening. The parties will be back in Judge Wolf’s courtroom virtually on March 16.

Wolf said he plans to set a brisk pace for this trial to minimize the impact on students who are expecting admissions letters in the next three weeks.