Boston Latin School is pulled into Harvard race-bias suit

Boston, MA--9/26/2016--US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz (cq) announced that a civil rights investigation found a pattern of race-based harassment and discrimination at Boston Latin School. The exterior is photographed, on Monday, September 26, 2016. Photo by Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff Topic: 27BLS Reporter: Milton Valencia
The Boston Globe
Boston Latin School was ordered by a federal judge to turn over internal communications related to Harvard’s use of race in its admissions process.

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered Boston Latin School to turn over internal communications related to Harvard’s use of race in its admissions process, potentially thrusting the prestigious exam school into another racially charged dispute.

The order came as part of a lawsuit filed in 2014 by Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit group that opposes the use of race in admissions policies and has accused Harvard of discriminating against Asian applicants. The group alleges that Harvard enforces an illegal quota on the number of Asian students it admits.

The group has subpoenaed Boston Latin School, saying it possess relevant information because it is “one of the best high schools in the country with many Asian-American students and one of Harvard’s top ‘feeder schools.’ ”


The group has also sought information from three top high schools in other states that send large numbers of graduates to Harvard.

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Boston Latin had sought to quash the subpoena. But Judge Allison D. Burroughs of US District Court in Boston said Tuesday that the school must comply with some of the demands of Students for Fair Admissions.

Boston Latin must turn over documents it prepared concerning the racial composition of applicants, admitted students, and enrollees at Harvard, Burroughs said.

The school must also hand over internal communications among its employees regarding Harvard’s use of race in the admissions process, she said, as well as documents that describe alleged discrimination by Harvard against Asian students.

In addition, Students for Fair Admissions will be allowed to question a Boston Latin representative under oath, Burroughs said.


The Boston School Department released a statement Tuesday, saying, “We received Judge Burroughs’s decision this morning and we are reviewing it to determine our next steps.”

Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions, said Tuesday that any documents that Boston Latin hands over will be under a court-ordered seal and therefore will not be made available to the public. That might change, he said, if the case goes to trial.

Harvard has denied that it discriminates against Asian students, and says it considers applicants as “whole people, not just as grades and test scores.’’ The university has argued that if the lawsuit were to succeed, it would lead to a less diverse campus, which Harvard says is critical to students’ success.

Boston Latin is no stranger to contentious battles over race and admissions.

In 1998, a federal appeals court in Boston struck down racial preferences at Boston Latin, ruling in favor of the father of a white student who argued his daughter had been illegally denied a seat at the school in favor of less qualified minority students. The Boston School Committee eventually decided not to pursue an appeal to the Supreme Court and agreed not to use race as a factor in determining exam-school admittance.

Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson