Federal appeals court upholds this year's exam-school entrance criteria

A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a judge's decision to let Boston Public Schools use a combination of pre-Covid GPAs and Zip codes to determine who is offered admission to the city's three exam schools for the coming school year, saying the plan is fair and the parents who sued waited so long that a ruling in their favor would have caused "chaos" that would disrupt the lives of thousands of Boston families.

As US District Court Judge William Young had earlier ruled, the US District Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston said the plan developed by a BPS task force was race neutral and rejected a request by a group of mostly West Roxbury parents to issue an emergency injunction against it. In fact, the court said doing so would unfairly harm the thousands of students and parents waiting for an answer.

Also, the plan is as race neutral as you can get, the court ruled:

"The Plan employs only uncontrived criteria that could easily be adopted in a world in which there were no races. One can readily see why a school system would prefer to curry city-wide support for high-profile, pace-setting schools. And one can easily see why selective schools might favor students who achieve academic success without the resources available to those who are capable of paying for summer schooling, tutoring, and the like."

The court continued by blasting the parents group that brought the suit for waiting some four months until after the School Committee approved the plan to file its suit:

"In assessing plaintiff's request for an injunction, we consider also the balance of potential harms that confront us as a result of plaintiff sitting on its collective hands. Plaintiff waited over four months after the Plan's long-anticipated adoption before filing this lawsuit,even though all involved knew that admissions invitations needed to go out to families early this spring. Notwithstanding the district court's Herculean efforts, plaintiff has put itself in the position of now asking us on short notice to enjoin implementation of the Plan,just days before parents are to be informed of the admissions results. The school system would then be left with no plan at a time when it would normally be assigning teachers and resources across the city based on how attendance figures pan out at each school in the wake of matriculation decisions at the Exam Schools. ...

"Due to plaintiff's delay, plaintiff's requested injunctive relief threatens to injure the other interested parties and the public. Enjoining defendants from making Exam School admissions decisions based on the Plan at this juncture would unsettle important expectations and the plans of thousands of families awaiting those decisions. The 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."

Should the parents wish to appeal the appeals ruling, they could seek a review of their request by the entire appellate bench, rather than the three-member panel that ruled today, or they could try appealing to the US Supreme Court.