Boston Latin School Sued
to Admit White Teenage Girls!
Boston Latin School is a prestigious public school. Parents throughout the Boston area
compete to get their kids admitted based on rigorous entrance exam scores. The school
boasts that over 90% of its graduates go on to college, and most of these graduates
receive college scholarships. If you were a parent in the Boston area, wouldn't you want
your kid to go there?
Boston Latin School has gotten itself into trouble for denying admission to well-qualified
white students with high exam scores in favor of minority students with lower exam scores.
The reason? Race. Ethnicity. Diversity. Until Julia McLaughlin's dad sued the school in
1995, Boston Latin had been in the habit of reserving 35% of its seats for minorities even
if they have lower entrance exam scores than the non-minority applicants.
13 year old Julia McLaughlin, who is not a minority, was denied admission to Boston Latin
because of her race. Over 100 minority students with scores lower than Julias were
admitted to the school while Julia was denied entry! In August 1995 her father, an
attorney, filed suit.
One year later, Julia McLaughlin was admitted to Boston Latin by order of US District
Court Judge W. Arthur Garrity, Jr. It seems that Boston Latin's admission policy
was racist and therefore unconstitutional.
comes the really slick part: Following Judge Garrity's decision, in December 1996
Boston Latin School revised their racial discrimination formula. In a little statistical
sleight of hand, the School Committee issued the following "new" formula which
allegedly "eliminated" racial preferences:
students would henceforth be ranked according to their entrance exams without regard to
top-ranking 50% of these students would henceforth be accepted without regard to race.
bottom-ranking 50% of these applicants would henceforth be admitted to the school based on
a formula that takes into account their relative rank AND their race. Thus, if 20% of the
50% with the lower scores happen to be, say, black, then 20% of the students to be
admitted from this group would have to be black, regardless of their relative score within
this lower 50% group!
You might need to re-read that a couple of times. But the end result is that a substantial
number of seats at Boston Latin are still reserved for minority students, even if
those minority students happen to have lower scores on their entrance exams than
non-minorities within their "lower half" of the ranked applicants. (Read
the formula a third time and a fourth time if you have to. It is definitely still
Then, a 14 year old girl named Sarah Wessmann tried to get admitted to Boston Latin. She
was not a minority. 10 minority students with entrance exam scores lower than Sarahs
were admitted while she was not.
Sarah Wessmann and her attorney, Michael McLaughlin (Julia's father) filed suit against
Boston Latin in August 1997. Her case went to trial on January 28, 1998.
In testimony on 1/29/98, Boston Latin's Superintendent Thomas Payzant justified this
reverse discrimination as a way of promoting "racial diversity". Payzant said
that in spite of the large number of less-qualified minorities that have been admitted to
the school, the numbers of minorities in the school "ought to be better"!
In testimony on 1/30/98, Boston Latin's Headmaster Michael Contompasis told the judge that
Boston Latin Schools policy of selecting half of the incoming class, based in part
on race, creates "diversity" in the classrooms. Headmaster Contompasis did not
provide testimony on the negative effect of this reverse discrimination on qualified
non-minority students such as Sarah Wessmann.
|Update Feb. 10, 1998: On Feb. 10, 1998, Boston Latin School's defense
lawyers took testimony from their "expert witness", Wm. T. Trent, Professor of
Educational Policy Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (See About the Expert Witness, below.)
Professor Trent said the lower scores for minority students are "probably a lingering
effect of prior segregation" (as quoted in the Boston Globe). This was offered
as apparent justification for Boston Latin's ongoing discrimination against non-minority
Prof. William T. Trent also offered the opinion that if Boston Latin were to admit
students based on test scores and grade-point averages that would result in
"re-segregation" of the school! (Prof. Trent apparently
hasn't heard the news that in the U.S. we award jobs, promotions, success, and, yes, even
school admissions based upon ability! Our Constitution guarantees
it! Or used to...)
When Sarah Wessmann's attorney pressed the school's expert witness for a definition of the
"right" racial composition for the school, Prof. Trent declined, saying that it
really depended upon an equitable assignment of resources to students based on their prior
opportunities in this society! Double-speak much?
In his most preposterous comment from the witness stand, Trent suggested that the most
experienced, seasoned teachers at Boston Latin School constitute a de facto
"organizational climate of segregation" -- solely because these more senior
teachers tend to be white!
About Boston Latin's 'Expert' Witness:
Prof. William Trent's academic specialty at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign
campus) is the study of ways to maintain racial quotas and racial preferences in our
schools. Much of his work seems to be based upon the a priori assumption that
minorities are (and will continue to be) automatically discriminated against in education.
Prof. Trent is no stranger to the court room: He has also served as an 'expert
witness' to help keep racial quotas in place in the schools in Prince Georges County,
Maryland (Vaughns, et. al. v. Board of Education, Prince Georges County).
Trent's views and biases have found a very comfortable home at the UI's Department of
Educational Policy Studies (within the College of Education). The Department's
promotional literature lists as a selling point the fact that the College of Education has
a much higher percentage of minorities than the campus as a whole: "For
many years (we have) worked to create a diverse faculty, student body, and curriculum. The
Department stands out among peers even in a college that is considerably more diverse
than the campus." (Emphasis added.)
|Update May 29, 1998: After months of testimony by "expert
witnesses", and a very flawed review of the Constitutional issues involved, yesterday
U.S. District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro upheld Boston Latin Schools "new and
improved" racial quota system for student admissions. See above, "Slick Quota Formula".
Judge Joseph L. Tauro was not shy about condemning the concept of a color-blind society.
As quoted in the Boston Globe, Judge Tauro said in his opinion from the bench that reverse
discrimination and racial preferences at the school ''...can be an important factor
contributing to students' intellectual and moral development, thereby preparing them to
survive and thrive in a pluralistic society."
In other words, if youre a white kid, the Judge thinks you should get used to racial
preferences and quotas, and should not complain when you are passed over for racial
Within minutes of Tauro's decision, Sarah Wessmanns attorney, Michael McLaughlin
filed an appeal in the US Court of Appeals. Adversity.Net wishes Sarah and her attorney
the best of luck.
|Update Nov. 21, 1998: Victory! A
three-judge federal appeals court ruled 11/19/98 that Boston Latin's race-based admissions
policies are unconstitutional! The judges also ordered Boston Latin to immediately
admit Sarah Wessmann to the school!
This is the first time that a federal appeals court has addressed the issue of reverse
discrimination in student admissions in a public high school. Undoubtedly this
precedent-setting decision will also affect the intractable reverse racists at Arlington,
Virginia's kindergarten. See Also Case 9:
DC Suburb (Arlington) Doesn't Like White Kindergartners (local link, Adversity.Net, this site).
The federal appeals court noted that racial diversity, in and of itself, is NOT a
compelling government interest! See Washington Post Nov. 20, 1998 (Page
A04) "Race-Based School Policy Struck Down"
|Update Dec. 23, 1998: Get your score cards out. Boston has vowed to
appeal to the Supreme Court to keep racial quotas in place! But wait! NAACP
does NOT want Boston to go to the Supreme Court. Why wouldn't NAACP want Boston to
keep their racial quotas? Because NAACP is afraid that there is a high probability
that the high court would rule against Boston, thus setting a national legal precedent
against the use of racial quotas in public schools. (Wouldn't that be great?)
Confused? Leonard Alkins, president of the Boston NAACP, explained it to the Boston
Herald this way: "The danger of this case, being as weak as it is, is if the
Supreme Court should decide that they want to take this case for consideration, they could
set a policy on affirmative action that could have lingering effects throughout the
country." Alkins went on to indicate that the supporters of racial quotas would
much rather see Boston give up their school's racial quotas than face a
possible Supreme Court precedent which would outlaw quotas in public education across the
Readers will recall the case of Sharon Taxman, the white NJ school teacher was fired
solely because the school had too many white teachers. In late 1997, Taxman's
attorneys had been poised to take the case to the Supreme Court, when a coalition of
quota-supporters, including the NAACP, paid her $300,000 to drop the case! (See also
Adversity.Net's story on Sharon Taxman).
Maybe NAACP can get by more cheaply this time. It may be legal and affordable to
bribe a lone teacher to drop a Supreme Court case, but can they bribe the whole Boston
|Update Jan. 11, 1999: According to the Boston Globe, Boston Latin School appears to be preparing
to marshall an expensive and extensive public relations campaign to preserve racial quotas
at the school. This means Boston Latin is going against the pressure of the NAACP to
drop their Supreme Court appeal (out of the NAACP's fear that Boston would lose, thus
setting a nationwide precedent against race-based admissions policies). This also
means that Boston must buy the best "hired guns" available, especially pro-quota
academics such as Dr. Gary Orfield of the "Harvard Project on School
Desegregation" (the project is, in fact, a front for pro-quota, race-based social
policy -- the use of the word 'desegregation' is intentionally misleading).
Boston Latin's PR campaign is already in full swing! They arranged for Dr. Orfield
to author a prominent article in today's Boston Globe which unabashedly defends the use of
racial quotas at Boston Latin School. The article, "Boston needs to strengthen
its case for diversity at Latin School", appeared on page A15 of the Jan. 11, 1999
Globe, and the article is about as blatant a piece of partisan propaganda as any which
were ever planted by Sen. Joe McCarthy's "House Unamerican Activities Committee"
during the 1950's purge of 'communist sympathizers, jazz musicians, socialists, and
About Dr. Gary Orfield: Dr. Orfield is a professor of education and social
policy at Harvard University and he is a prolific writer in defense of racial
quotas. Dr. Orfield frequently works under the umbrella of "The Harvard Project
on School Desegration" (a misnomer), and has helped draft friend-of-the-court briefs
in support of discriminatory minority racial admissions policies in a number of other
school quota cases. He has also served as a consultant to numerous pro-quota groups,
including the 'Minnesota Desegregation Roundtable'. Dr. Orfield has a long and
friendly relationship with the NAACP which frequently relies upon his academic credentials
in order to lend credence to their pro-quota, race-based social policies.
Indicative of his many pro-quota publications and articles, Dr. Orfield co-authored the
highly-biased and prejudicial book called "The Closing Door: Conservative Policy and
Black Opportunity" (U of Chicago Press, 1991) in which he attempted to add an
academic veneer to his partisan condemnation of a color-blind society.
|Here is a summary of today's Boston
Globe article which was planted by the 'Friends of Boston Latin Racial Quotas' ...
Boston Latin Fights Losing Battle for
Racial Quotas to Supreme Court (01/11/99) (dead link)
According to author Gary Orfield, and using typical pro-quota double speak, the
intransigient school board in Boston believes that (a) the Supreme Court is hostile to
desegregation (it is not); and (b) Boston can win their pro-quota case through a
stepped-up public relations campaign. (The highest court is
hostile to the use of racial quotas, but is fully supportive of desegregation.)
Nonetheless, Boston plans to marshall an expensive cadre of researchers, educators and
pro-quota 'civil rights activists' to try to win their case in the court of public
opinion. Boston promises to manipulate an overwhelming mountain of statistical
evidence to the contrary in order to lie with statistics and prove that racial quotas in
education are good for the kids and good for the nation. (Based on Boston Globe,
page A15, 01-11-99, by Gary Orfield.)
[ former link http://www.boston.com:80/dailyglobe2/
|Update Feb. 5, 1999: According to the Associated Press yesterday, Boston Latin School dropped
its Supreme Court appeal of the Nov. 19 order by a three-judge federal appeals court
ending quotas at this school. The NAACP and the U.S. Dept. of Education finally
prevailed upon the school board to drop the appeal to the high court out of fear that a
defeat by the Supremes would end the use of racial quotas in public schools nationally
instead of just for Boston Latin.
NAACP and the Dept. of Education hope they can continue to stall a major court challenge
to public school quotas until some of the conservative Supreme Court justices retire and
are replaced with justices who are more sympathetic to racial quotas.
According to Associated Press, a constitutional scholar at Harvard Law School, Richard
Fallon, summed it up fairly concisely: "One of the things that the [supreme]
court has been most set against is quotas or anything that looks like a quota. They
have consistently, in all of their cases, said how skeptical they are of quotas."
For now, it looks like Boston's non-minority children such as Sarah Wessmann and Julia
McLaughlin, who started all of this fuss, will be assured of almost fair and equal
treatment in public education, without regard to race, based on the court's Nov. 19, 1998
order. Sadly, however, non-minority children at other public schools will have to
wait until a school board has the courage to buck the NAACP and the U.S. Dept. of
Related News Stories:
Action Cowardice (NY Post Editorial 02/07/99)
"If affirmative action is such
a just policy, why aren't its advocates confident enough to take it all the way to the
Supreme Court? The NAACP and the U.S. Education Department fear that racial
preferences will be ruled unconstitutional by the high court" for all schools,
not just for Boston! In a complete turnaround, the school board
voted unanimously last week to drop the Supreme Court appeal. Prior to intense
pressure from the U.S. Dept. of Education and teh NAACP, a majority of the board had voted
to proceed with the Supreme Court appeal.
But some say the statistics provide a telling lesson in one of the country's most
tumultuous, and closely watched, racial preference and quota-based admissions
battlegrounds: No matter how hard a school struggles to come up with an acceptable
race-based admissions policy, it will probably fail both in the courts and in the
classroom if it is based on race and ethnicity instead of upon academics.
|Update Mar. 24, 1999: When Boston Latin School was forced to dismantle its most recent racial
quota admissions policy after a bitter court fight, racial special interests predicted the
number of minorities admitted to the school would drop dramatically. In the end, it
came down to just 10 students.
Under a new, race-blind admissions policy, the number of black and Hispanic students
admitted to the prestigious school for next September was about the same as in 1998 - the
last year of a racial preference policy. Eighty-one black and Hispanic students were
admitted to next year's seventh-grade class of 440 students, 10 fewer than last year.
"As federal judges consistently reject any plan that even remotely resembles a racial
quota, school systems across the country are struggling to come up with formulas to
maintain diversity without running afoul of the Constitution. Boston's attempt to solve
the problem could serve as a bellwether for the rest of the nation."
Yesterday, the race-blind admissions statistics were the buzz in Latin and throughout the
Boston school community. While some students and parents hailed the ability of minority
students to hold their own in Latin's competitive admissions process, many said the
previous race-sensitive policy did the students a disservice by implying they could not
get into Latin on academic standing alone. (Based on Boston Globe, 03/24/99, page
B01, by Beth Daley)
|Update June 24, 1999: Boston Latin's reverse discrimination suit was just the first case in
Mass. which negated the poorly-defined "need" for discriminatory race-based
admissions. In the most recent case, the parents of four white students who were
unconstitutionally denied entrance to Boston schools because of their race asked the US
District Court to throw out a decade-old policy that assigns students to schools based on
"choice" and "race". The plaintiffs (parents) want a race-neutral
admissions policy in place by September.
''It is unfair for my son to be denied anything because of his race,'' said Rose O'Toole,
one of the five plaintiffs and a mother of a 4-year-old who she says was denied entrance
to his choice of kindergarten because he was white. Boston's Children First, a
pro-neighborhood school group, spearheaded the lawsuit and also is a
plaintiff." For more info, see link: Massachusetts Racial Education.
Officials mull race-based
school policy (06/30/99-dead link)
"A lawsuit was filed last week against the city in US District Court by Boston's
Children First, an advocacy group, and four parents who say their children were
unconstitutionally denied entrance to certain Boston public schools because they are
"Boton public school officials appear to be leaning toward dropping the use of race
when assigning students to public schools, wary of spending money to defend a lawsuit they
could lose in increasingly unsympathetic courts. [...and the board is still
apparently blissfully ignorant of our Constitution's guarantees against race-based
discrimination in any form.]
"'Given the current climate in this country, we would seriously have to examine
whether we want to divert funds that could be used for teaching and learning on a
lawsuit,' Elizabeth Reilinger, chairwoman of the Boston School Committee, said yesterday.
"The schools use [a constitutionally questionable] assignment system that combines
choice and race for all children entering kindergarten and grades 1, 6 and
"The committee, which has met twice in two weeks trying to agree whether race should
remain a factor in student assignment, will make a final decision at its next public
meeting on July 14. [The committee seems to presume that it has the authority to override
the U.S. Constitution in their illegal, discriminatory use of race as an admissions
criterion.]" (Based on the Boston Globe 06/30/99 by Hermione Malone)
|Update July 15, 1999: BUSING ENDS IN BOSTON! It looks like Boston's
school children will finally get a race-neutral admissions system! According to
today's New York Times: "In the most powerful symbol yet that the era of
race-based busing is ending in America, the Boston School Committee voted on Wednesday
night to drop race as a factor in deciding which school a child attends. The vote will
effectively end in 2000 the last vestiges of the city's busing integration program, 25
years after its violent inception tarred Boston with a reputation for northern racism and
school busing strife.
"The committee's vote of 5 to 2 completed a neat historical circle: In 1974, it was a
Federal judge who found that Boston's de facto school segregation discriminated against
black children and ordered the busing. Wednesday night, the committee voted under pressure
from a pending Federal lawsuit that argues that the current system discriminates against
"City authorities who encouraged the vote to return to neighborhood schools said they
acted out of awareness that here and nationwide, affirmative action programs and other
school admissions systems that take race into account have lost again and again in recent
court challenges. (New York Times 07/15/99 by Carey Goldberg)
Additional Resources and Links -- See Also:
Globe Race neutral policy urged on prep classes (01/28/99)
|USA Today Preferences Supporters Avoid
Supreme Court (02/08/98)
"For the second time in 15 months traditional 'civil rights groups' last week worked
behind the scenes to keep a key [public school race preference] case away from the
nation's highest court. The Boston School Board, at the urging of [pro-quota] groups
[such as the NAACP and the U.S. Dept. of Education] decided not to appeal a lower court
ruling against an admission policy that [illegally] boosted minority enrollment at its
renowned Boston Latin School." (USA Today, 02/08/99, by Tony Mauro)
"The Boston School Committee was urged last night to approve race-neutral admissions
to exam school prep classes next year, a policy change that would dramatically reduce the
number of black students in the program. The request - to be voted on next week - is
largely an effort to avoid lawsuits from white students denied admission to the program
because of the current policy of having a racial quota. A similar admission policy for the
city's exam schools was declared unconstitutional by a federal appeals court. That
decision is being appealed to the US Supreme Court by the School Committee.
"But [Boston Schools Superintendent Thomas W.] Payzant said the proposal is for next
year only to stave off possible lawsuits. A similar admission policy for admittance into
the city's exam schools was overturned after two white students claimed discrimination.
Once the Supreme Court decides that issue, he said, then the committee can rework the
admission policy to ensure more diversity while also having it hold up in court. 'If
you don't change the current policy, this committee is vulnerable to a lawsuit that we
have no way of winning,' Payzant said. 'This is only for the 1999-2000 school
year. Over the next 6-7 months, we will take a broader look at the issue.' "
(Boston Globe 01/28/99 by Beth Daley, originally appeared on page B07 this date)
School board member
says do NOT appeal Boston Latin case to High Court (01/29/99)
"A well-respected member of Boston's School Committee said yesterday the city should
not take its appeal of Boston Latin School's race-based admissions policy to the Supreme
Court. 'My desire at this point is that we do not pursue it,' said
[school committee member] Felix Arroyo, who voted in December in favor of appealing to the
Supreme Court." At least one other member, Susan Naimark, who abstained during
the previous vote would now vote against pursuing the appeal to the high court.
"NAACP lawywers have asked the city to drop its appeal because a loss before the
Supreme Court could doom affirmative action policies nationwide." (Boston
Herald, 01/29/99, by Darrell S. Pressley)
Boston Globe / Associated Press NAACP Opposes Bostons Appeal to Supreme Court
"Saying the future of
affirmative action is at stake, the NAACP says it opposes the Boston School District's
plan to appeal a ruling against a race-based school admission policy to the U.S. Supreme
Court." (Globe/AP 12/21/98)
Detroit News Civil Rights Leaders Fear
Boston School Appeal will Backfire
"Fearing a legal setback that
could block any elementary or secondary school in the country from using a race-based
admissions system, 'civil rights leaders' [NAACP, et al] are pressuring Boston school
officials to back away from an upcoming Supreme Court appeal. The Boston School Committee
has voted to appeal its November loss before a federal appeals court, which ruled the
race-based admission policy at the prestigious Boston Latin School was unconstitutional.
" 'This could be a very dangerous case,' said Leonard Alkins, president of the NAACP
in Boston, one of many 'civil rights leaders' telling Boston schools officials their
appeal could do more harm than good. If the Supreme Court rules against Boston, that
ruling would block any school district in the nation from using racial preferences to
diversify student populations that have not seen previous discrimination."
(Detroit News, 01-17-99, by Richard Whitmire)
[ link http://www.detnews.com/1999/nation/9901/17/01170079.htm
FoxNews / Associated Press Racial
Quota Supporters Vow to Appeal Decision and Keep Quotas!
"Boston school officials will
ask the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether they can (continue to) use a race-based
admissions policy." If the Supreme Court hears the case it will be the first
time that public school affirmative action has been ruled upon by the nation's highest
court. (Fox News, AP 12/03/98)
[ link www.foxnews.com/js_index.sml?content=/news/wires2/1203/n_ap_1203_88.sml
Ruling to be Appealed (dead link)
"Boston school officials are going to the nation's highest court to try to preserve
their race-sensitive admissions policy.
``The issue is so important that we must seek the final judgment of the highest court to
give us clear direction,'' Boston School Superintendent Thomas W. Payzant said before
Wednesday's School Committee meeting.
``This is a threshold case with respect to affirmative action and public and secondary
schools,'' he said.
"If the U.S. Supreme Court hears the appeal, it will be the first time it has taken
an appeal of public school affirmative action, and its decision could have national
impact. In the past, the high court has heard cases involving college admissions and
Related: Judge Orders
School to Accept White Girl from City (no link)
"A federal judge has ordered a suburban school district to accept a 10-year-old girl
from Rochester who he said was rejected because she is white. At issue is the
Urban-Suburban Interdistrict Transfer Program that lets Rochester students attend suburban
schools. But the judge ruled it may be operating unconstitutionally because it has
traditionally accepted only minority city students and white suburban students.
"Jessica Haak, 10, of Rochester had planned to start the school year at Iroquois
Elementary School in the suburban West Irondequoit Central School District. She was
accepted into the program, but just before school started she was told she was ineligible
because she is white, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
"U.S. District Judge David G. Larimer's decision on the injunction indicated the
urban-suburban program's policy of only accepting minority students is
discriminatory. 'The basic issue before the court is whether a governmental body - a
school district - can deny a child the opportunity to participate in a school-sponsored
program on account of her race,' he wrote. 'The answer must be no.'
" (Boston Globe - AP, 01/15/99)
The Topeka Capital-Journal
action debate moves to public school districts
An excellent overview of the impact
of recent court decisions banning "race-based admissions" in public high schools
and grade schools. Arlington, VA kindergarten; Boston Latin School; Montgomery
County, MD. Almost 50 yrs. after the landmark "Brown vs. Board of
Education" decision, public schools must now cope with a long-overdue end to forced
racial admissions. (The Topeka Capital-Journal 11/29/98) (Also published in
New York Times Undated/Undecided:
desegregation plan (dead link)
"Lowell's (U Mass. campus)
admissions policy has been changed to create one cutoff for all applicants, but for
20 percent of the class it takes into account other factors like socioeconomic status and
personal achievement." Opponents of race-based admissions "say that recent
court rulings point inescapably to the conclusion that school systems...may not use any
racial preferences" in their admissions policies. (NY Times 11/28/98)
Affirmative action retreating under hail of US legal
blows. (Dead Link) Boston Latin isn't the only public school which
will be affected by the federal court ruling that race-based school admissions are
unconstitutional. (The Guardian 11/25/98)
[former link reports.guardian.co.uk/articles/1998/11/25/p-34948.html]
Court strikes down Latin School race admissions! (dead
link) The Boston Globe's 11/20/98 summary of this historic judicial decision for racial
equality and a color-blind society!
for a summary of other "reverse discrimination" cases in education.
Article 5/29/98 (dead link) for additional
details of US District Court Chief Joseph L. Tauro's ruling in favor of
racial preferences and racial quotas at Boston Latin School.
Montgomery County, Maryland Denies Racial
Washington Post and Associated Press stories about similar racial quota case in Montgomery
County, Maryland. Court overturns use of racial quotas in public school assignments.
4: Boston Latin School Quotas