Race-Based Admissions to Boston Schools Blocked

K-12 Testing

A federal appeals court has overruled a trial judge and found the Boston public schools' use of race as a factor in determining admissions to its exam schools is unconstitutional. As a result, the white plaintiff has been admitted to the city's prestigious Latin School. Boston school officials have announced they will appeal the case.


While commending the district's goal of diversity in its schools, the court ruled that Boston failed to show that its policy would necessarily achieve that goal or "the vigorous exchange of ideas" between students of varied backgrounds. The 2-1 decision also rejected the district's claim that the policy was necessary to undo the lingering effects of past discrimination, finding insufficient evidence that gaps in achievement between white and minority students and low- expectations of minorities were the result of past discrimination.


Prior to this decision, the first fifty percent of the slots at the three exam schools were distributed based on a composite score of grade point average and entrance exam results; the second half were allotted based on a consideration of scores and the proportional representation of each racial/ethnic group in the top half of the applicant pool (see Examiner, Summer 1998).