Boston Parents Group Sues BPS Committee Over Zip Code Admission Process

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — The Boston Public School Committee is facing a lawsuit over its newly-approved "Zip Code Quota" admissions plan for Boston's three exam schools.

The lawsuit was filed Saturday in the U.S. District Court in Boston by a group called The Boston Parents Coalition for Academic Excellence.

The complaint is asking for immediate injunctive relief to "protect the constitutional rights of Asian and Caucasian school children seeking admission to the district’s three exam schools: Boston Latin Academy, Boston Latin School, and the John D. O’Bryant School of Science and Math."

The BPCAE is seeking to prohibit the School Committee from implementing its new Zip Code Quota admission plan, which apportions a specific number of admission seats to the exam schools to each of Boston’s 29 zip codes.

"By apportioning seats in this manner, the Zip Code Quota plan will have the effect of limiting the number of children from certain predominantly Asian and Caucasian zip codes who are admitted to the exam schools for the 2021-2022 school year," the group said.

The suit further alleges that the School Committee’s plan is unconstitutional because it says their "purpose and intent is to decrease the number of children from certain racial and ethnic backgrounds from gaining admission to the exam schools, while increasing the number of children who gain admission to the exam schools from other racial and ethnic backgrounds."

The BPS Zip Code Quota admission plan for the fall 2021 admission cycle was recommended by Superintendent Brenda Cassellius, and was approved by the Boston School Committee at a public meeting on October 21st, 2020.

The Parents Group called it an "anti-Asian" admissions plan.

"At this meeting, then School Committee Chair Michael Loconto was recorded on a "hot mic," mocking the names and accents of several Asian parents who were attending the meeting to provide public comments on the Zip Code Quota admission plan," the BPCAE said. "Chair Loconto resigned the next day because of his anti-Asian racist remarks, but not before the anti-Asian Zip Code Quota Admission plan was adopted."

As a remedy, the BPCAE is requesting that the Court halt the School Committee from implementing the Zip Code Quota admission plan, and in its place order the School Committee to utilize a citywide, merit-based admission process, which the group says has been in place for the exam schools for at least the past twenty years.

Over the past four decades, the School Committee said mostly Caucasian and Asian students have been admitted to the city's three exam schools.

In the mid-1970's, around 65 percent of students enrolled at Boston's exam schools were Caucasian, nearly 20 percent were Black, around ten percent were Asian, and less than ten percent were Latinx.

Since the mid-1980's, the racial make-up of the exam schools' student body has shifted. Currently, nearly 20 percent of students at the exam schools are Latinx, nearly 20 percent are Black, around 25 percent are Asian, and about 35 percent are Caucasian.

According to the BPS Committee, its recommendation for the Zip Code Quota plan is intended to "work towards an admissions process that will support student enrollment at each of the exam schools such that it better reflects the socioeconomic, racial and geographic diversity of all students (K-12) in the city of Boston."

The Committee said throughout BPS, Asian and white students are "considered meeting or exceeding expectations at higher rates" than Black and Latinx student on state exams and district report cards.

"Up to 20 percent of seats at each exam school are reserved for the top ranking students in the city based on GPA," the Committee said in its plan. "The remainder of invitations are distributed by using a combination of GPA and student home zip code."

BPCAE spokesperson Ben Cui said the parents want their children to have "a fair opportunity to earn admission" to the exam schools.

"We do not take lightly the decision to file this lawsuit, but we felt we had no other alternative to protect our children’s rights to be free from racial and ethnic discrimination at the hands of the government," Cui said. "We made every effort to bring our concerns before the City of Boston and to engage with representatives in a dialogue about how our concerns about equity and fairness in this plan could be addressed. However, our school committee members would not listen to us or engage in any discussion of our concerns, leaving us no option to be heard other than by filing this lawsuit.”

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Written by Brit Smith

(Photo: Getty Images)

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