U.S. District Judge John T. Curtin, noting the potential ramifications of the case, today said he will not make a hasty decision in the lawsuit filed on behalf of a student denied admission to City Honors. Curtin said that he wants to hear more testimony on Nov. 5. The attorney for the plaintiffs asked Curtin to issue a preliminary injunction that would have ordered the district to immediately admit the student to City Honors, pending a full hearing of the suit.
Paul Weiss argued that adding the sixth-grader would not strain the school but would give her a chance to start learning the school's challenging curriculum.
Curtin acknowledged that the suit is not a class action but could prompt others to file a similar legal action if he were to order the student admitted. He declined to issue the order.
Earlier in the hearing, Weiss, the plaintiff's attorney, argued that the district's use of quotas at the school is unlawful now that the district has been freed of Curtin's court orders aimed at promoting desegregation. He said the white student in question was bypassed by minorities with lower qualifying scores.
Race, Weiss said, was the "overriding factor" in the district's decision on whom to admit. Paul Volcy, an assistant corporation counsel representing the school district, countered that the district hasn't had enough time to revise the school's admission procedures since Curtin ended his oversight of the district a year ago.
Volcy added that the student in question wouldn't have gotten in under existing procedures, even though her test score was higher than the minorities who were admitted.
Volcy questioned the criteria used by the district to rank students, noting there is a statistically significant difference between the test scores of whites and minorities. His comments, coupled with statements made recently by Superintendent James Harris, suggest that district officials may want to downplay the importance of test scores in determining who gains admission to the school. The district is reviewing admission procedures to City Honors and Frederick Law Olmsted Elementary, where academic achievement is a prerequisite for admission.