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Supreme Court Allows Equity Admissions Policy in Discrimination Dispute at Virginia School to Survive

National Review logo National Review 4/25/2022 Caroline Downey
The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., April 15, 2020 © Jonathan Ernst/Reuters The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., April 15, 2020

The Supreme Court on Monday allowed an equity admissions policy in an anti-Asian discrimination dispute at a prestigious Virginia high school to survive, dealing a setback to the grassroots parents movement that launched the legal fight in 2021.

The case concerned a new equity-focused admissions policy at Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax County, Va., that caused a fury among racial minority parents who claimed that their children would be discriminated against in the process. The policy eliminated the entrance exam and awarded bonus points for “experience factors” such attendance at a middle school in the county deemed historically underrepresented at the school, eligibility for free and reduced-price meals, and status as an English-language learner. A lower court found that the new system resulted in significantly reduced Asian student enrollment after its first year of implementation.

After a district court ruled in favor of the parents, defendant Fairfax County Public Schools escalated the case to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which put the ruling on hold pending appeal. Coalition for TJ, the plaintiff organization that has been fighting to restore the competitive high school’s merit-based admission standards, then asked the Supreme Court for an emergency order to lift the temporary suspension. The parents insisted that the policy “was infected with talk of racial balancing from its inception” despite the district’s claims of racial neutrality.

In a short order Monday, the Supreme Court denied the parents’ petition. Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch dissented to the decision. The order noted that the trio would have granted the application to vacate the stay. The decision represents only a marginal victory for Fairfax County as it did not make a judgement on the merits of the case.


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Litigation will be ongoing as Fairfax County is likely to file an appeal in the progressive-dominated 4th Circuit court, where they’re expected to win on the discrimination question, Asian co-founder of Coalition for TJ Asra Nomani told National Review. Then her organization will appeal again to the Supreme Court.

Coalition for TJ v. Fairfax County School Board is the Brown v. Board of Education for the 21st century, and we will ultimately prevail,” Nomani said.

Before the high court reviewed the parents’ petition, over 15 states including Virginia signed an amicus brief declaring their support for Coalition for TJ.

“The challenged policy is ‘directed only to racial balance, pure and simple,’ an objective this Court ‘has repeatedly condemned as illegitimate,’” Virginia Solicitor General Andrew Ferguson wrote in the brief. “The violation of the constitutional rights of Asian-American applicants ‘for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.’”

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