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Ruling Ends Affirmative Action at Boston High School


A three-judge panel here struck down the affirmativeaction policies of Boston Latin School, the city’s most prestigiouspublic high school, according to a story in The New York Times. It isthe first such appeals court decision in the nation directed at theK-12 system of education.

Last month’s ruling was the result of a legal challenge broughtagainst the school by Henry Robert Wessmann, the father of a Whitestudent who was not granted admission. The 2-1 decision overturned aMay ruling by the federal district court that upheld the school’spolicies. Boston, like hundreds of school districts across the country,spent years under a court order to desegregate.

At Boston Latin, all incoming students must be in the top half oftheir class at their previous school. Then, half of those students areadmitted strictly by merit — those with the highest entrance examscores and grades. Admission standards for the rest are formula driven.For example, if 25 percent of the remaining qualified applicants areBlack, 25 percent of those admitted must be Black.

Sarah Wessmann, who claimed she was illegally denied admission infavor of less qualified Blacks, ranked 91st among the applicants forthe 90 slots available for the 1997 ninth-grade class. To fill thefirst 45 slots, the school went through the first 47 students on thelist. For the rest, the school designated 18 to Whites, 13 to Blacks, 9to Asians, and 5 to hispanics.

Dr. Elizabeth Reilinger, chair of the Boston School Committee, saidthe committee would comply with the decision. She also said thecommittee would meet to decide whether to appeal the decision or changethe policy.

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