Federal Appeals Court Denies Request to Halt Boston Exam Schools Admissions Decisions
PUBLISHED ON: 05/03/2021
Decision Sides with Amicus Brief Filed by Brown Rudnick, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts
BOSTON – A federal appeals court has denied a request by a group of parents to halt the implementation of the Boston Exam Schools admissions plan for the 2021-22 school year. As a result, admissions decisions were released to prospective students on April 28, 2021.
The School Committee of the City of Boston (the School Committee) developed an admissions plan for the 2021-22 school year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented the administration of the entrance test that had been used in previous years. The School Committee landed on a plan that allocates seats based on a combination of GPA and the number of school-age children living in each of Boston’s 29 ZIP codes. One of the School Committee’s objectives in approving the one-year plan was to improve racial, socioeconomic, and geographic diversity in the schools and to raise the quality of education for students throughout the city of Boston.
The Boston Parent Coalition for Academic Excellence Corporation, which consists of a group of parents of students from high-income ZIP codes expected to lose seats under the plan, first challenged the plan in the federal District Court for the District of Massachusetts, arguing that it improperly favored Black and Latinx students to the detriment of white and Asian-American students, violating the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. U.S. District Judge William Young ruled in favor of the School Committee, finding that the plan “does not have the effect of subjecting students to discrimination because of their race. Geographic and socioeconomic diversity are appropriate educational goals in their own right, regardless of race.” The ruling sided with an amicus brief filed in support of the School Committee by international law firm Brown Rudnick LLP, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI), LatinoJustice PRLDEF (LatinoJustice), and the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts (CLCM).
The parent group immediately appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and requested an emergency injunction to prevent the School Committee from issuing admissions decisions pursuant to the plan until the conclusion of the appeal. The appellate court denied the parent group’s emergency request. The panel of three judges that issued the opinion found that the parent group was unlikely to succeed on the merits of their appeal and that delaying the School Committee’s release of decisions “would unsettle . . . the plans of thousands of families awaiting those decisions.” The panel further stated, “[t]he public interest is best served by permitting defendants to finalize and communicate admissions decisions based on the plan, not by entering plaintiff’s proposed injunction and throwing the Exam School admissions process into chaos.”
“Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) applauds the federal appeals court for recognizing that diversity is not only an important goal but a constitutionally permissible one. Quality public education is not reserved for those with the financial resources to supplement their education. All children have a right to access the best the city has to offer. This decision paves the way for more equitable access for Black, Latinx, Asian, and Native American students. MLRI is committed to working with stakeholders across the city to advance justice and equity for underserved families and communities,” said Virginia Benzan, MLRI’s Race Equity & Justice Attorney."
“The First Circuit’s opinion is another strong rebuke of the Boston Parent Coalition’s challenge and affirms the legitimacy of the School Committee’s desire to provide equal access to high quality education for Boston students from all backgrounds and parts of the city,” said Brian Alosco, Brown Rudnick Associate in the Litigation & Arbitration Practice Group, who led the team of attorneys on a pro bono basis serving as co-counsel on the amicus brief. “This ruling will also finally allow Boston families to have some clarity as to where their children will be attending school in the fall,” Alosco said.
“The First Circuit’s observation that under the plan ‘Black and Latinx students, as a group, are projected to receive many fewer admissions invitations’ is a vindication of Amici’s position that although the BSC is on the right path, it still needs to do much more to diversify these elite gateway public high schools,” said Jose Perez, Deputy General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF.
The amicus brief filed by Brown Rudnick, MLRI, LatinoJustice, and CLCM at the district court, and joined by 23 prominent national and local organizations (listed as amici curiae below), noted that while the School Committee properly considered the past and present racial and socioeconomic discrimination that historically has created racially segregated neighborhoods across the City, today Boston is very diverse within and across its ZIP codes, and the admissions plan did not use ZIP codes as a proxy for race.
A link to the amicus brief can be found here.
About Brown Rudnick LLP
Brown Rudnick combines ingenuity with experience to achieve great outcomes for our clients. We deliver partner-driven services, with a focus on collaboration in the client’s best interest. Brown Rudnick is an international law firm, serving clients around the globe. With more than 250 lawyers and government relations professionals, the Firm has offices in key financial centers across the United States and Europe. We are recognized for our market-leading practices covering several targeted industries, including bankruptcy and corporate restructuring, life sciences, technology, litigation and arbitration, white-collar defense and government investigations, civil fraud, special situations, corporate finance, strategic capital, distressed debt, intellectual property, real estate, M&A, and cross-border deals and disputes.
Brown Rudnick is deeply committed to public service. Pro bono work is an integral part of our culture. Our lawyers, paralegals, and professional staff dedicate their time and talents to help individuals and organizations pursue civil rights and racial justice and in other matters.
About Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
The Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) is a statewide nonprofit anti-poverty law and poverty center whose support center for civil legal aid organizations in Massachusetts. MLRI’s mission is to advance economic, social, and racial justice for low-income persons and communities. MLRI works to address public and institutional policies and procedures that either contribute to, or perpetuate, the cycle of poverty; ensure that low-income and underserved populations across the state are provided the same legal protections, rights and liberties enjoyed by all members of society; provide local legal services providers and community-based advocacy organizations that serve low-income people with the substantive expertise, and dismantle systems that thwart the advancement and inclusion of Asian, Black, Latino, and Native American low-income people.
About LatinoJustice PRLDEF
LatinoJustice PRLDEF (LatinoJustice) works to create a more just society by using and challenging the rule of law to secure transformative, equitable and accessible justice, by fostering leadership through advocacy and education, and by empowering the Pan-Latinx community in the areas of education, voting rights, immigrant rights, economic justice, and criminal justice reform. Since its inception nearly five decades ago, LatinoJustice has championed the rights of low-income students, particularly Latinx students, to receive a high-quality education.
About Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts
The Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts (CLCM) is a nonprofit legal aid organization founded in 1977. Its mission is to promote and secure equal justice and to maximize opportunity for low-income and systems-involved children and youth by providing quality, culturally sensitive, advocacy, and legal services. CLCM provides comprehensive legal representation and related assistance to public school students in a range of education matters, including special education, enrollment, and school discipline matters, while also advocating for systemic policy change on the district and state levels.
List of Amici Curiae
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts
American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts
Center for Law and Education
Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice at Harvard Law School
Citizens for Public Schools
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders
Greater Boston Association of Black Social Workers
Harvard Legal Aid Bureau
Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU)
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)
Greentarget Global Group
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