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Judge Approves Boston Student-Assignment Plan

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The Boston school system may proceed with its transition from mandatory busing to a new "controlled choice" student-assignment plan, a federal judge ruled last week.

Minority plaintiffs in the district's long-running desegregation case had urged the court to delay implementation of the plan for one year, arguing that it did not adequately safeguard the interests of minority students.

But U.S. District Judge W. Arthur Garrity, who had heard three days of testimony on the issue, ruled that the plaintiffs had failed to prove that the proposal "would result in a substantial resegregation of the Boston Public Schools," according to Henry C. Dinger, special counsel to the district.

Press accounts quoted a lawyer for the plaintiffs as saying they "probably" would not appeal Judge Garrity's ruling.

The ruling was one of only a handful of legal tests of the controlled-choice concept--a relatively new desegregation method that has been implemented in almost a dozen school districts and is being considered in a number of others.

Such plans require all parents to indicate their school preferences, and then assign students so that each school ends up with a racially balanced enrollment.

In the plans that are already operating, school officials typically have had to give mandatory assignments to a relatively small percentage of students in order to meet racial guidelines, experts say.

Boston's plan includes a "school improvement" process calling for extra help for schools that fail to attract sufficient numbers of either minority or majority pupils.

The plan is scheduled to be implemented over the next two years. Parents whose children are set to enter elementary or middle schools next fall have completed the first round of choices and are expected to receive school assignments soon, district officials said.--ws

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