Supreme Court declines to take appeal challenging Virginia high school's admissions policy

Feb. 21, 2024
The lawsuit contended that the admissions policy at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology was unfair to Asian American students.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to an Alexandria, Virginia, high school’s “race-neutral” admissions policy that critics say discriminates against Asian American students.

CNN reports that by declining to take the appeal, the Supreme Court left in place a lower-court ruling that sided with the Fairfax County district school.

The legal dispute arises from an admissions policy adopted by the highly selective Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology to increase diversity. The policy sought “to mitigate socioeconomic obstacles faced by students of all races” to ensure disadvantaged students were admitted to the school, whose student body historically came from affluent areas.

After the ruling, Fairfax County School Board chair Karl Frisch said that the board has “long believed that the new admissions process is both constitutional and in the best interest of all of our students.”

The school's admissions plan called for admitting a small share of the highest-performing students from each middle school in the county. One hundred slots were separately reserved “for the highest-evaluated applicants overall, regardless of where they attend middle school.”

A group of parents sued the school board in 2021, contending that the new policy violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because it sought to balance the student body’s racial makeup by “excluding Asian Americans.” Asian-American students had made up 70% of enrollment before the changes. The school told the court that while that number initially fell, it rose to 62% in 2023.

A federal judge in 2022 ordered the Thomas Jefferson school to stop using the new admissions policy, ruling that it was “racially discriminatory.”

But a divided panel of the federal appeals court in Richmond later reversed, saying that the policy did not disparately affect Asian American students and that the challengers couldn’t establish that it was adopted with discriminatory intent.




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