By Asra Q. Nomani
This past October 21, Michael Loconto, chair of the Boston School Committee, led a meeting of city’s school officials when he got caught in a hot mic moment, mocking the names of Asian American parents waiting to challenge a controversial vote to eliminate the merit-based test to the city's "exam schools" and impose a new quota admissions plan based on zip codes. The change would target the number of Asian American and white students at the schools, and school policymakers voted that night to make the change, despite the culture of bigotry in which the vote was cast.
Today, 14 families, represented by the Boston Parent Coalition for Academic Excellence, fought back, filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts against the Boston School Committee and Boston Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius, alleging the “Zip Code Quota” admissions plan is unconstitutional and violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and state law, which guarantee equal protection under the law. Among the families, eight families are Asian American and six families are white.
The complaint argues convincingly that Boston educrats are using zip codes as a proxy for race and ethnicity to put in place a social engineering scheme that punishes certain children based on the zip code in which they live. Attorneys for the parents filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against the new zip code quotas and argued in a memorandum that the zip code quotas have a “racially disparate” impact on admissions. The Boston School Committee has argued the plan would bring “equity” to its “exam schools,” including Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy and the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science.
Ironically, ideologues of critical race theory, such as author Ibram Kendi, now leading a multimillion dollar “anti-racism” project at Boston University, preach that zip codes have been used historically against Blacks to perpetuate unfair policies from education to housing. Now, in the intellectual dishonesty and irony of critical race theory, racist policies of the past — like zip code discrimination — are being used (conveniently) to practice, well, a new racism.
The Boston school official caught in the hot mic moment — Loconto — resigned after the decision to implement the merit-based admissions tests to the schools was approved, but his disrespect of Asian American parents became a window into the antagonism and bigotry Asian American families have faced this past year from San Francisco to Northern Virginia and New York City. In those school districts, educrats have used the excuse of “equity” to eliminate race-blind, merit-based admissions tests to advanced academic programs and put in place new admissions policies that target admissions by Asian American students, in particular, into the programs.
“As parents, we want our children to have a fair opportunity to earn admission to the exam schools and enjoy the unsurpassed educational opportunities those schools offer,” said Ben Cui, a parent leader in the Boston Parent Coalition for Academic Excellent. “We do not take lightly the decision to file this lawsuit, but we felt we had no other alternative to protect our children’s rights to be free from racial and ethnic discrimination at the hands of the government. We made every effort to bring our concerns before the City of Boston and to engage with representatives in a dialogue about how our concerns about equity and fairness in this plan could be addressed. However, our school committee members would not listen to us or engage in any discussion of our concerns, leaving us no option to be heard other than by filing this lawsuit.”
As parents, we all share the frustration of the Boston parents. Through COVID, school district officials from San Diego to Boston have hit the mute button on parents, mocking us, ridiculing our advocacy and ramming their expensive “equity” plans for “social justice” while children suffer through online learning, their brain health and academic acumen deteriorating to frightening levels.
At a time when Asian Americans face increasing hate on the streets, with elderly grandparents physically attacked, there is increased attention on the bias against Asian Americans in education. And it’s critical that parents stand up.
This past week, lawyers for Students for Fair Admissions asked the Supreme Court to consider their allegation that Harvard University unfairly discriminates against Asian American students in admissions. In Northern Virginia, parents filed a lawsuit against a decision by the Fairfax County School Board, eliminating the merit-based test to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Last month, a local judge sided with the parents on virtually all points except issuing the injunction, citing a lack of authority. In New York City, courageous Asian American parents are challenging the anti-Asian bias of education policymakers who are attempting to gut gifted education and the city’s specialized high schools. Underlying all of these misguided proposals is the flawed thesis of critical race theory,” and this past week, the Chinese American Citizens Alliance Greater New York issued a scathing letter condemning critical race theory as “a hateful, divisive, manipulative fraud."
Rather than working to effectively improve the academic skills of Black and Hispanic students to increase their enrollment in advanced studies programs, educrats are lazily implementing remedies to gut these program of their high-level merit-based standards and then alleging racism against parents who call them out on their flawed schemes.
Unless parents, like the 14 brave families in Boston, stand up and oppose the divisive ideology of critical race theory city by city, we will continue to face a future in which our communities are sliced and diced by race, zip code and ethnicity — in this disturbing new racism of critical race theory that we must reject and replace with a philosophy of a truly inclusive humanity — beyond race and zip codes.
Asra Q. Nomani is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and parent advocate. She can be reached at email@example.com. She is investigating critical race theory in K-12 education.