Board defends admissions policy at prestigious high school

Apr 13, 2022, 4:38 AM | Updated: 4:40 pm
This photo shows Fairfax County Public Schools Monday, March 4, 2019 in Merrifield, Va. A federal a...

This photo shows Fairfax County Public Schools Monday, March 4, 2019 in Merrifield, Va. A federal appeals court has granted a request from a Virginia school system to continue using a challenged admissions policy while it appeals a ruling that found it discriminates against Asian American students. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a ruling Thursday, March 31, 2022 that Fairfax County Public Schools can continue to use its new admissions policy at the highly selective Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. (AP Photo/Matthew Barakat)

(AP Photo/Matthew Barakat)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A new admissions policy at a prestigious high school in northern Virginia does not discriminate against Asian American students and is not an attempt to achieve “racial balancing,” a school board argued in its response to an emergency request filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by a coalition of parents trying to overturn the policy.

The group Coalition for TJ last week asked the high court to vacate a ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to allow the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology to continue using its admissions policy while the Fairfax County School Board appeals a lower court ruling that found the policy is discriminatory.

In a response filed Wednesday in the Supreme Court, the school board insisted that its admissions policy is “race-neutral” and said the 4th Circuit was “entirely within its authority” to suspend the lower court ruling while the board appeals it.

The board said the admissions policy does not set any racial quotas, goals or targets, and is administered in a “race-blind manner,” with all applications anonymized so evaluators do not know the race of any individual applicant.

“The district court simply slapped the pejorative ‘racial balancing’ label on a race-neutral measure to improve geographic, socioeconomic and racial diversity, without any basis in the record,” the board said in its response.

U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton ruled in February that impermissible “racial balancing” was at the core of the new admissions policy at the selective school near the nation’s capital. It is often ranked as one of the best public high schools in the country.

Hilton also turned down a request from the school system to delay implementation of his ruling, but a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit said the school board had met the legal requirements for a suspension of Hilton’s order while its appeal is pending.

For decades, Black and Hispanic students have been underrepresented in the student body. After criticism over its lack of diversity, the school board scrapped a standardized test that had been at the heart of the admissions process and opted instead for a process that sets aside slots at each of the county’s middle schools. It also includes “experience factors” like socioeconomic background.

The parents group argued in its lawsuit that Asian Americans, who constituted more than 70% of the student body, were unfairly targeted in the new policy.

The school’s current freshman class, which was admitted under the new policy, saw a significantly different racial makeup. Black students increased from 1% to 7%; Hispanic representation increased from 3% to 11%. Asian American representation decreased from 73% to 54%.

The school board said it will suffer irreparable harm if it is forced to change its policy now because the selection process for the incoming freshman class is already well underway. Final admissions decisions are due this month. “Overhauling the admissions process at this late date would be convulsive,” the school board argued in its response.

The case has been closely watched as courts continue to evaluate the role that racial considerations can play when deciding who should be admitted to a particular school. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a similar case alleging that Harvard University discriminates against Asian Americans in its admissions process.

The parents’ group said the 4th Circuit judges made a “grave error” in allowing the school system to continue to use its new admissions process.

“Every American should be offended and outraged by the arrogance of the Fairfax County School Board in insisting on clinging to its state-sponsored racism and discrimination,” said Asra Nomani, a cofounder of Coalition for TJ and the mother of a Class of 2021 graduate.

“We are confident U.S. Chief Justice (John Roberts) will make a decision on the correct side of history for equality under the law for all.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


File - Credit cards as seen July 1, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. A low credit score can hurt your ability...
Associated Press

What the Fed rate increase means for your credit card bill

The Federal Reserve raised its key rate by another quarter point Wednesday, bringing it to the highest level in 15 years as part of an ongoing effort to ease inflation by making borrowing more expensive.
13 hours ago
police lights distracted drivers shooting...
Associated Press

Authorities: Missing mom, daughter in Washington found dead

A missing Washington state woman and her daughter were found dead Wednesday, according to police.
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Google’s artificially intelligent ‘Bard’ set for next stage

Google announced Tuesday it's allowing more people to interact with “ Bard,” the artificially intelligent chatbot the company is building to counter Microsoft's early lead in a pivotal battleground of technology.
2 days ago
Evelyn Knapp, a supporter of former President Donald, waves to passersby outside of Trump's Mar-a-L...
Associated Press

Trump legal woes force another moment of choosing for GOP

From the moment he rode down the Trump Tower escalator to announce his first presidential campaign, a searing question has hung over the Republican Party: Is this the moment to break from Donald Trump?
3 days ago
FILE - The Silicon Valley Bank logo is seen at an open branch in Pasadena, Calif., on March 13, 202...
Associated Press

Army of lobbyists helped water down banking regulations

It seemed like a good idea at the time: Red-state Democrats facing grim reelection prospects would join forces with Republicans to slash bank regulations — demonstrating a willingness to work with President Donald Trump while bucking many in their party.
3 days ago
FILE - This Sept. 2015, photo provided by NOAA Fisheries shows an aerial view of adult female South...
Associated Press

Researchers: Inbreeding a big problem for endangered orcas

People have taken many steps in recent decades to help the Pacific Northwest's endangered killer whales, which have long suffered from starvation, pollution and the legacy of having many of their number captured for display in marine parks.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Board defends admissions policy at prestigious high school