Federal Court upholds race-based admissions policy at top high school

 May 24, 2023

Tuesday, a federal court upheld a racial balancing admissions policy at the nation's top secondary school, overturning a lower court's finding that it was unconstitutional.

According to a report by The Daily Caller, The Coalition for TJ, comprised of parents, students, alumni, and staff, filed suit against the Fairfax County School Board in 2021.

The suit asserted that Thomas Jefferson High School's merit-based admissions policy was in the wrong for removing standardized testing requirements, lowering grade point average requirements, and eliminating teacher recommendations in an effort to increase racial and socioeconomic diversity.

From the Suit

According to the complaint, they allege that the changes were "specifically intended to reduce the percentage of Asian American students enrolling at TJ, with the ultimate goal of racial balancing the school."

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Coalition failed to prove that the policy was motivated by "discriminatory intent."

The court added that Asian American students accounted for 48.59 percent of applications in 2021 but still received 54.36 percent of the available spots.

“Thus, the Coalition’s remarkable efforts to twist TJ’s admission statistics and to prove a disproportionate, adverse impact on Asian Americans students fall flat,” Clinton appointee Judge Robert B. King wrote in the majority opinion.

“By the same token, the Coalition’s contention that the Board’s aim to expand access to TJ and to enhance the overall diversity of TJ’s student population constitutes per se intentional racial discrimination against Asian American students simply runs counter to common sense.”

More Opinions

Toby J. Heytens, a judge appointed by Biden, submitted a concurring opinion with King's majority. Former President Trump's appointee Judge Allison Jones Rushing disagreed with the ruling.

According to the Washington Post, the proportion of Asian American students in the incoming Class of 2025 (the first to be selected under the new admissions criterion) fell from nearly 70 to 50%.

Erin Wilcox, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation who represented the Coalition, said she is "not discouraged" by the verdict.

“Discrimination against students based on their race is wrong and violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection,” Wilcox said in a statement provided to the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“We look forward to asking the Supreme Court to end this illegal practice once and for all.”

Two lawsuits challenging the legality of using race as a factor in college admissions are currently before the Supreme Court, and a ruling is expected soon. Schools have begun discussing alternatives to affirmative action, such as making standardized testing voluntary.

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