Lowell High School, regarded as San Francisco’s top public high school, will no longer consider academic achievement in its admission process.
Prior to the vote, Lowell was only one of two public high schools in San Francisco to impose admission requirements, the other being the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts.
“We must recognize the need for a culture shift in our schools and address racism. This resolution comes after years of advocacy from students and community members,” Board of Education President Gabriela Lopez said in a statement. “Led and supported by our students, it reflects our collaboration with numerous outside partners and creates a community coalition, including an external mechanism for accountability.”
The move accelerates efforts to make the school more racially diverse. Of its current 2,871 students, Asian students make the largest group at 50.6%, while Black students are least represented at 1.8%.
Board members stressed that the change is urgent, although it will not take effect until fall 2022. Controversial policy changes take at least two weeks of public discussions, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Commissioner Jenny Lam was one of the two no votes. She acknowledged the struggles of the African American community but pointed out the reality of anti-Asian perspectives.
“We need to fight racism, both the institutional racism that our Black students and families have faced, but also the anti Asian perspective that is present,” Lam said, according to ABC7 News. “There are more voices that want to be heard.”
In October, members of the Lowell community who are against the idea also published a change.org petition demanding its reevaluation. They argued that the move would compromise Lowell’s legacy.
“San Francisco families caught off guard by the proposal for a 100% lottery admission at Lowell would like to know the district has exhausted all options to maintain the academic legacy at Lowell High School,” states the petition, which has now received more than 11,000 signatures. “Parents, students, and alumni are worried that the transition will become permanent and remove one of the two remaining academic and merit-based public high schools in the city.”
Surviving Lowell requires hard work, according to one junior student.
“Not everyone is capable of handling the stress [of Lowell], which is why there’s a testing or grading system to see which students are suitable for the standards and environment of Lowell. Lowell isn’t going to adapt to you. You adapt to Lowell, and if you can’t handle it, that’s on you,” the student told The Lowell, the school’s official student paper.
On the other hand, supporters argue that the change is long overdue.
“Stop saying this is a rushed process, Black families in SFUSD have been fighting for injustices against their babies since before schools were integrated in San Francisco, and what you are witnessing now is our words finally moving into action,” said Marisha Robinson, an SFUSD parent and member of the African American Parent Advisory Council.
Virginia Marshall of the San Francisco’s Alliance of Black School Educators said, “I’m glad that we’re not in school right now, because if we were, I’d be afraid for the students safety.”