Beverly Hills addresses diversity issue

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Times Staff Writer

Under pressure from civil rights groups, the head of Beverly Hills schools agreed Thursday to extend the application deadline for the district’s diversity permit program in hopes of increasing the number of Latino and African American students who seek to enroll.

The decision to push forward the deadline to April 26 came at a morning meeting between Beverly Hills Unified School District Supt. Kari McVeigh, activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson and representatives from several groups including the NAACP and the Youth Advocacy Coalition.

For nearly 40 years, high-performing Beverly Hills High School has aimed to increase its relatively low number of minorities by selecting students from the Los Angeles Unified School District to enroll on so-called diversity permits.


But a Times story earlier this month found that the overwhelming majority of the 159 students currently enrolled on the permits -- nearly seven out of 10 -- are high-performing Asian students, most of whom attended two of the 12 Los Angeles middle schools that participate in the permit program.

After the story, Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, criticized Beverly Hills school officials for not more aggressively recruiting black and Latino students.

“The chronic underachievement of many black and Latino students in the LAUSD continues to have a damaging effect on poor communities,” said Hutchinson, in a prepared statement. “The Beverly Hills diversity permit can help undo some of the educational damage.”

The increase in Asian students stems from California’s strict anti-affirmative action law, approved by voters in 1996. Concerned the permit program violated the law, Beverly Hills school officials since 2000 have not considered a student’s race or ethnicity when deciding who receives the permits.

Over the coming weeks, Hutchinson said he and other leaders in the African American and Latino communities would spread word of the permit program and encourage students to apply. With more blacks and Latinos applying, the number of students admitted should increase as well, he said.

Until this year, selections had been based on, among other factors, test scores, grades and writing samples. Going forward, however, McVeigh said school officials will choose randomly from students who complete applications.