Judge to try to decide exam-school lawsuit by April 15

A federal judge said Tuesday he hopes to rule by April 15 on a lawsuit against the Boston School Committee's system for selecting exam-school students without exams either in time for students to get notified of their selection this spring - or to order officials to quickly come up with a new way of selecting students for the schools before the fall.

At a hearing this morning, US District Court Judge William Young told lawyers for the three sides in the case - White and Asian-American parents, who claim the system now in place discriminates against them, BPS and a coalition of groups led by the local NAACP branch, who mostly support BPS - that Boston school kids deserve to know where they'll be going to school next fall.

The White and Asian-American parents sued BPS.

Due to Covid-19, the School Committee last fall approved a system for 2021-2022, in which the first 20% of seats at Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy and the John D. O'Bryant School would be offered to students with the highest pre-Covid grades in BPS, charter, private and religious schools. The remaining 80% would be offered in rounds based on grades in individual Zip codes, starting with those Zip codes with the lowest median incomes for families with at least one child under 18 - an effort to help low-income students whose families have been hit particularly hard by Covid-19.

Young today gave all three sides in the case until April 2 to file their written arguments in the case. Young said he would then schedule oral arguments for the following week, which would give him time to consider and then write an order in the case.

Attorneys for BPS and the NAACP said that depending on what the lawyers for the White and Asian-American parents filed, they might want to file statements by experts on the reasons to use the Zip-code-based plan this year.

Young said he would first read the briefs and hear the arguments - and reminded the attorneys he's not hearing the case in a vacuum, because school racial issues are not new in Boston and he's already begun research on the case - and said that if he felt he needed more evidence to make his ruling, he would allow such statements.

But he cautioned that that would mean he'd need to extend the date for his deadline past April 15 to consider them, and said he will be reluctant to do that, because the students have a right to know what school they'll be attending in the fall, as do their parents. He added that he is also mindful of the potential stress on BPS officials who might have to draw up completely new assignment plans on short notice, officials, he said, who already have "the very difficult job of serving Boston's school children."