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Feds to investigate possible racial bias in Boston school closing plan

UPDATE: BPS Superintendent Carol Johnson responds.

The federal Department of Education says it will investigate a complaint that the city's current plans for closing and merging schools disproportionately affects black and Latino students.

The Boston Bar Association's Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Black Educators' Alliance of Massachusetts recently filed a complaint with the department alleging that despite a black superintendent and black School Committee chairman, when it comes to school closings Boston Public Schools are protecting white kids in West Roxbury, Roslindale and Brighton and Asian students in Chinatown at the expense of black and Latino students in Dorchester, Mattapan and Roxbury.

Of the schools, to be closed 46% of the students that will be impacted are Black and
44% are Latino, while only 5% are White, which is disproportionate to the School District’s
demographics: 36%, 41% and 13% respectively.

The School Committee voted in December to close and merge a number of schools due to a looming budget gap - and, school officials said, to give students at "underperforming" schools a better chance at a good education. In addition to school in Dorchester and Roxbury, the plan would also shutter schools in East Boston, South Boston and Jamaica Plain.

The two groups allege the charter schools that might gain control of some of the closed buildings would be less likely to enroll blacks and Latinos than BPS schools, that the shutdown of the Hyde Park Education Complex screws kids from Hyde Park and Mattapan who will now have to travel further to schools that may be in even worse academic shape and that Dorchester's Clap Elementary School, which has a far higher percentage of white students than other Dorchester schools, was removed from the final closure list.

The groups also charge the new plan continues a BPS pattern of moving blacks and Latinos out of newly or soon to be renovated buildings into older facilities. It cites as an example an impending overhaul of the Quincy Upper School - which has a high percentage of Asian students - now that the heavily black Boston Leadership Academy has been moved from that building to Brighton.

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BPS is overwhelmingly minority majority. I don't see how this investigation is going to find anything except a paycheck for the investigators at its conclusion.

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You may be right about the practical effect, but that probably isn't the purpose of the complaint. The purpose of the complaint is likely to slow down the closure of these schools to force a compromise. I would imagine that if there was some way of complaining that the closures would violate EPA clean air standards, you would hear that one too. I think this has much less to do about race than it has to do about a group of parents who don't want their school closed and are throwing up roadblocks where they can. Hopefully the City will continue to base its choice on what is best for the school system as a whole.

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I can agree that the majority of the schools closing will effect the students from the inner city however this is a fight that should have started when the parents & administrators became aware that the schools were failing. As for the Quincy Upper School having a high percentage of Asians you should revisit that. There are far more African American kids in this school.

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The Dept of Ed profile for the Quincy Upper School says:

African-American 21.6%
Asian 55.3%
Hispanic 14.3%
Native American 0.6%
White 6.9%
Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander 0.0%
Multi-Race, Non-Hispanic 1.3%

http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/profiles/student.aspx...

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Inner city?

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It's on the edge of Chinatown just beyond Tufts Medical, how much inner can you get?

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They won't be happy until every last white kid is gone from the system.

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It's true. I remember a story of a school that was becoming more white, and people talked about how it was hurting diversity. Um, white people are a huge chunk of the population in Boston! White people are part of diversity - unless by "diversity" you really mean something else...

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I remember a parent teacher meeting where people were complaining fairly vociferously about people from "outside the neighborhood" taking over their schools. They assumed I was one of them, even though I was from outside the neighborhood, because, you know, pale skin and all.

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I'm not sure how that relates.

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At the same time that somebody is complaining about too many whites, somebody else is complaining about too many minorities.

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Do you have a copy of their original complaint? The PDF link is to the DOE's response, which only summarizes the complaint. It would be interesting to see what further details are in the complaint regarding some of these allegations.

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Disingenuous. To say that West Roxbury High is white shows that they've never been there. The BPS is disproportionately Black & Latino, so of course closures will disproportionately affect them!

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Its four schools are being smushed into two.

One of the issues in general in West Roxbury is that the neighborhood now only has three elementary schools (following the Beethoven/Ohrenberger merger); there wouldn't be any places to put the extra kids if they closed one of those schools (I suppose you could lump Roslindale in, but most of its schools are 1930s-era small buildings).

Still, I've added a paragraph to my original post that maybe explains their case a bit better: Only 5% of the students affected by the changes are white even though whites make up 13% of the overall student population.

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whites make up 13% of the overall student population.

Take out the exam schools - now what's that percentage?

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This statement just in from Carol Johnson:

We know our plan is the right one as we work to provide a quality education and the best chance of success for all 56,000 students in Boston Public Schools. The truth is, the schools slated for closure were selected because they are among the lowest chosen by families, have been struggling academically, or are in facilities that are not up to par. Furthermore, we are expanding choices in higher-performing schools and turning around underperforming schools in the very communities in question. We would be doing a great disservice to continue to serve young people in these schools when we have better options available. Frankly, it would be more appropriate for us to be questioned of wrongdoing had we chosen to maintain the status quo. We look forward to working with the Office of Civil Rights as it conducts this inquiry, and as we move ahead in our plan to accelerate achievement for all students.

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Maybe they can look into why the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, the West End and most of the Fenway (some of Boston's most densely populated neighborhoods) don't have ANY elementary schools (and one on the periphery is being closed).

Now there's your civil rights violation - and actually probably a backhanded defense of BPS' actions - which seem eminently well thought out as Dr. Johnson states.

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Back in the 1970's and 80's when they were closing schools, the population of children living in those neighborhoods was way, way down. Still not a ton of kids in those neighborhoods looking to attend public schools, though you could certainly make the argument that if there were more schools, there'd be more untreated families.

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Interested not untreated...darn autocorrect.

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