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Suit Challenges Quotas For Elite Schools in Boston

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A Boston lawyer has challenged the city school system's use of racial quotas in determining which students get admitted to its most prestigious schools.

Michael McLaughlin argues in a lawsuit filed last month in U.S. District Court that the district violated his daughter's civil rights by rejecting her from the highly competitive Boston Latin School largely because she is white.

His lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of a district policy setting quotas for minority students that stems from the federal court's 1975 desegregation order.

The policy requires the district to reserve 35 percent of the seats at each of the city's three elite college-preparatory high schools, known as examination schools, for black and Hispanic children.

District officials have acknowledged that Boston Latin admitted 80 minority children with lower test scores than those of 12-year-old Julia McLaughlin and that she would have been admitted if not for the minority preferences.

But, district lawyers argue, the enrollment quota is the only factor that keeps white students, who account for about 19 percent of the district's enrollment, from taking nearly all the seats at Boston Latin.

They also say the quota serves the valid educational purpose of ensuring that the school's students are exposed to racial diversity.

Last week, the court rejected Mr. McLaughlin's request that it block the school system from using the quota system in assigning students this year. District officials had argued that having to reassign the students would severely disrupt the start of the school year.

No trial date has been set in the lawsuit.

--Peter Schmidt

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