The Boston Parent Coalition for Academic Excellence (“BPCAE”) formed in November 2020, a few weeks after the city’s school committee voted to change the exam requirement to enter the Boston Latin School, the Boston Latin Academy and the O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science, three highly selective “exam schools.”
At the October 2020 School Committee for the City of Boston meeting, a Boston Public Schools taskforce presented an interim system to address the pandemic’s disruptions in local schools. The exam schools serve students in grades 7 through 12 and getting in is a competitive process. Typically, the admissions process involves factors of a GPA score, a standardized test score, and the applicant’s school preference. Closures and restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic prohibited the test portion of the admissions process. The School Committee voted to implement a one-year admissions process—which considered applicants’ high school grades, and, in most cases, their home zip codes. The taskforce and the committee both noted this common-sense response to redress the pandemic’s disruptions could have an “equity impact” at the exam schools, which tend to enroll more white and Asian students than the district’s open enrollment high schools.
The BPCAE filed suit against the School Committee in February 2021 alleging a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and a Massachusetts law that prohibits discrimination in school admissions on account of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation. The complaint alleges that the interim system, particularly the consideration of zip codes, was “wholly irrational” and would “deprive some school children of educational opportunity based on their race or ethnicity.”
The district court found the new criteria for admission was “race-neutral,” and addressed the lack of statistical evidence as to what effect the plan would have in its final form, as BPCAE relied upon the information from the original meeting that had since been amended.
The BPCAE filed a notice of appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals and moved for an injunction pending the resolution of their appeal. The motion for injunction was denied.