A federal judge ruled yesterday there is nothing wrong with the residency requirements set by Boston Public Schools and that BPS was within its rights to rescind a boy's acceptance to Boston Latin School because his parents were unable to prove the family actually lived in Boston.
The ruling, by US District Court Judge Denise Casper, does not dismiss the lawsuit by the parents of "Student Doe" against BPS, although she expressed strong doubts they could ultimately prevail. However, her ruling, which comes after two state courts rejected a similar appeal, means their son will not be able to go to BLS while they argue the case.
Casper wrote that while the parents believe their son deserves "the best education possible" so that he may become "[a] productive, contributing member of society" and that BLS is the best school to provide that education, that belief is outweighed by Boston's desire to prevent "residency fraud, misuse of taxpayer dollars, and usurpation of the limited available school seating for actual Boston residents:"
In light of BPS’s strong interest in preserving its limited resources for students who actually reside in Boston and given that Doe has not established a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, the Court declines to impose the extraordinary form of relief that Doe has requested.
The case involves two doctors from northern Virginia - an internist and a nephrologist - whose son last year took and passed the ISEE test required for BLS acceptance, and who was originally scheduled to start BLS in September.
But BPS withdrew his BLS acceptance because the address his mother initially used to prove residency turned out to be an office on Canal Street and because she was unable to show she and her son actually had a legal address in Boston.
The parents argued they had an agreement to buy a $1-million home in West Roxbury, but that the deal fell through and that the mother and son had been living in various Boston hotels or staying with friends and relatives in the Boston area. In one filing, the mother included a photo of herself and her son outside the Inn at Longwood Medical, a couple blocks away from BLS, where she said she had signed a year-long lease in September.
Casper addressed both the residency evidence and the question of whether BPS was violating the boy's constitutional rights.
At best, the affidavits and supporting evidence suggest that Mother Roe was interested in making Boston her residence (and, by extension, Doe’s residence). Moreover, none of the proffered evidence is consistent with Mother Roe’s assertion that she and Doe resided at the Canal Street address, as claimed in the BPS residency verification forms. Without more, the Court does not agree that Doe was a bona fide resident of Boston entitled to attend a BPS school when Mother Roe submitted the residency verification paperwork in November 2017, when BPS rescinded Doe’s admission to BLS in June 2018, or even now.
Even assuming arguendo that Doe had shown that he was a resident of Boston, the Court concludes that Doe received all the process that he was due under the Fourteenth Amendment.
She noted BPS had conducted reviews of the parents' appeal even though they filed it long after the ten-day period BPS had set for one, and even though the Supreme Court has ruled such detailed review is not required.
Doe's father also argued that BPS's residency requirement violates the federal constitution by imposing a constraint on people's freedom to move from one state to the other.
Casper wrote, however, that the Supreme Court case the father cited noted that governments could set "bona fide residence requirements" and that BPS's definition of residency as "the place where a person dwells permanently, not temporarily" and where a person's "domestic, social, and civic life" is focused meets that criterion.
Casper similarly rejected the parents' claim that BPS's decision to revoke their son's acceptance violated a federal law aimed at ensuring homeless children can get an education.
Doe has neither alleged that he applied to BPS as a homeless student nor that BPS was otherwise aware of his purported homelessness prior to the institution of this lawsuit. However, even assuming that Doe followed the procedures for homeless students set forth in BPS's residency policy, it is unlikely that he qualifies as homeless under the McKinney-Vento Act. ...
[T]he Court concludes that Doe does not fall within the McKinney-Vento Act's definition of homeless where there apparently were fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residences available to him during the relevant time period. For example, the record indicates that Doe's paternal uncle resides in Easton, Massachusetts, that Doe receives mail at this address, and that Mother Roe chose to stay in hotels and with friends while waiting for the resolution of a case in Massachusetts Land Court concerning the house she was attempting to purchase. On this record, Doe is unlikely to succeed on the merits of his claim pursuant to the McKinney-Vento Act.
Casper added that the suit fails to show the "irreparable harm" that would be required for an immediate injunction:
The Court does not doubt that Doe will be impacted by the inability to attend BLS, an elite public school, this year. Doe’s claim, however, that he will be irreparably harmed is undermined, at minimum, by the facts that Doe was homeschooled prior to applying to BLS and there is no indication that the choice of continued homeschooling will have a negative impact on Doe’s educational opportunities, and that there is no indication that Doe cannot attend a public school wherever he actually resides.