A federal appeals court ruled the admissions policy at Fairfax County’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology does not discriminate against Asian American applicants.
In a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond reversed a lower court decision that said the admissions process that Fairfax County school board revamped in 2020 was an illegal act of “racial balancing.”
“After thorough consideration of the record and the appellate contentions, we are satisfied that the challenged admissions policy does not disparately impact Asian American students and that the Coalition cannot establish that the Board adopted its race-neutral policy with any discriminatory intent. Moreover, we are satisfied that the policy passes constitutional muster under a rational basis standard of review. Accordingly, it is the Board — not the Coalition — that is entitled to summary judgment on the Equal Protection claim. As explained herein, we reverse the judgment of the district court and remand for entry of summary judgment in favor of the Board,” the opinion said.
The Coalition for TJ, a group of parents, sued after the school board changed the admissions policy and scrapped a standardized test in order to increase diversity at the school that is consistently among the nation’s best. The new admissions process set aside an equal number of slots for each county middle school for admissions to TJ. It also took into account whether applicants came from historically underrepresented high schools, had disabilities, had economic disadvantages, and were still learning English.
For years, Asian Americans made up more than 70 percent of the student body, while Black and Hispanic students remained under-represented.
Judge Robert King, who wrote the opinion, said the school board had a legitimate interest in increasing diversity at the school.
“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,” King wrote.
Feature image courtesy Thomas Jefferson High School For Science and Technology
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