Exam School Lawsuit gets Hearing, Law Firm says there is a ‘New Boston’

The blockbuster case now in Superior Court before Judge William Young had a hearing on Tuesday in the case, and Judge Young has said he would rule some time by mid-April to allow for the school assignment process to move forward in some fashion – but within that hearing on large law firm arguing for the temporary system says Boston’s changing demographics support their claim.

Brown Rudnick law firm has signed on to represent a plethora of organizations and civil rights groups that are supporting the plan that looks to achieve socio-economic diversity in the three exam schools via using zip codes across the city and their corresponding median income – as well as school-age population while eliminating the exam school test for this year only. That sparked a lawsuit from 14 families in West Roxbury and Chinatown known as the Boston Parent Coalition for Academic Excellence Corp. and represented by Attorney William Hurd. They claim the zip code method is a proxy for race-based admissions and discrimination against Asian American and white students.

Brown Rudnick Attorney Brian Alosco has filed an interesting amicus brief in the case that is one of several being considered, but it focusing on the fact that there is a new Boston that has changed so much since this argument started many years ago – when he says the City was much more segregated.

“Their understanding of Boston’s neighborhoods focuses on what happened in the 20th Century in Boston, but present day Boston isn’t what it used to look like,” he said. “Even in a certain zip code there is now diversity of race and socio-economic status…To say it’s about race just is not accurate.”

One of the examples Alosco’s brief has cited is the Mission Hill/Roxbury zip code (02120) and the East Boston zip code (02128)

“We have a lot of examples, but both of these zip codes has a white population of about 34 percent,” he said. “However, East Boston is going to gain 24 seats and Mission Hill/Roxbury would see a reduction of about two seats.”

He said only four zip codes have one racial group representing 80 to 90 percent of the population, which is the white racial group, and those areas are Beacon Hill, North End, Seaport and Downtown.

“Undoubtedly, race, poverty, and geography are inextricably linked; past and present racial and socioeconomic discrimination has confined communities of color to low-income sections of neighborhoods,” read the filing. “Those sections, however, do not remain stagnant. More important, the racial boundaries that divide Boston’s communities of color continue to take shape and change over time and are not confined to ZIP code boundaries…For example, historically Black and Latino neighborhoods in the South End, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, and Dorchester became demonstrably whiter between 1990 and 2017. Those communities cannot be identified by ZIP code because they are within and across most ZIP codes.”

Alosco said there is such diversity now in Boston, and also between racial groups in Boston – such as Asian Americans – that the old arguments don’t hold.

“You can’t just say, ‘This admissions plan discriminates against white and Asian students,’ because even within that group there is diversity of race and socio-economic status in zip codes,” he said. “It just doesn’t hold that there was some hidden agenda.”

That, of course, is in the hands of Judge Young, and Alosco said the judge has told them he will rule by April 15. Meanwhile, Boston Public Schools announced this week they are holding up all school assignments for grade 6 going into grade 7 in order to wait for the results of the case. Because exam school assignments make up about 25 percent of the assignments, they have chosen to wait and have indicated that decisions will be sent out by late April so families can plan accordingly.

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