SF court rules in favor of Lowell High’s alumni, school’s admissions policy shift on hold

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The ruling of a San Francisco court in favor of the Lowell High School’s alumni association delayed a contentious change to the school’s admissions policy.

In a 5-2 vote in February, the San Francisco Board of Education agreed to stop the school’s merit-based entrance policy. Members of the Board who said yes to the change mentioned: “pervasive systemic racism” and the insufficiency on diversity of the learners. On the other hand, members who voted “no” pushed for more input from the community before coming up with a decision, SFGATE reported.

Lowell is unlike the several public schools in the city that practice the lottery system. Instead, the school assesses most prospective students through a mix of middle school GPA and state testing scores. The board, due to the struggle amid distance learning and the impossibility of conducting the standardized testing, came with a decision last fall that it is unfair to assess learners with the metrics they were unable to meet last year. Because of this, they agreed to change the school’s admissions process temporarily to a random lottery for a year. This then became a permanent policy shift in February.

The decision only invalidated the resolution. It does not, however, mandate the board to bring back the merit-based admissions system. This allows the board to suggest the removal of merit-based admissions again if it wishes to.

“The Court is not directly ordering the District to reinstate its prior admissions policy; rather, it is finding the Resolution null and void. It is up to the Board how it wishes to process, which may include the option of re-noticing the Resolution for a public hearing in compliance with the Brown Act,” according to the court’s decision.

According to the lawsuit, the Board of Education made a violation against the Brown Act by “failing to post an agenda containing a minimally adequate description of the resolution”, which was agreed upon by the court.

“Neither the vague title of the Resolution nor the Background text provided any description of the item of business to be transacted or discussed by the Board — i.e., the elimination of Lowell’s merit-based admissions process,” the court decided.

“We’re gratified by today’s ruling,” Lowell Alumni Association President Kate Lazarus, said. “The Court recognized that the Board of Education used a flawed process to change the Lowell admissions policy. San Francisco students and families deserve public meetings that are transparent, inclusive, and equitable. The Lowell Alumni Association will continue to advocate for these principles every step of the way to ensure Lowell remains one of the best public high schools in the United States.”