The Supreme Court has declined the request of a parental coalition to block the admissions policy of an elite public high school in Virginia, according to CNN. Lawyers for the school board state policy is “race-neutral” and is meant to add more diversity to the school. Critics claim it discriminates against Asian American students.
Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch noted their dissent and would have sided with the parents. The Supreme Court has already agreed to hear affirmative action cases within Harvard and the University of North Carolina.
“T.J.” is regarded as one of the best public schools in the nation–gifted students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The school is also one of many regional public schools in Virginia that provides advanced studies.
Under the previous policy, admissions were based on teacher recommendations, written exams, standardized tests and essays, among other factors. According to the board, under the prior policy, students at just eight of Fairfax County’s 26 middle schools accounted for 87% of the county’s share of TJ’s admitted students in the four years preceding 2020. In the summer of 2020, state officials expressed concern that the school had historically admitted very few disadvantaged students.
The board overhauled the admissions process, eliminated standardized tests and guaranteed seats at TJ for 1.5% of the eighth grade class of each public middle school within the school’s reach. It also instituted a “holistic” evaluation of the students that takes into consideration “experience factors” such as socioeconomic background.
Judge Claude Hilton barred the admissions policy in February, holding that it violates the equal protection rights of Asian American students. However, Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to put that decision on hold. The parental coalition asked the justices to lift the stay put in place by the federal appeals court. On Monday, the court declined.
Erin E. Wilcox, a lawyer for the coalition of parents, said that in the Class of 2025, the first admitted under the new admissions policy,” offers to Asian-American students dropped 19 percentage points — from 73% to 54% in a single year.” “Every other racial group, including White students, increased their share of offers,” she said.
Lawyer Donald B. Verrilli, who also served as former President Barack Obama’s solicitor general, stated in court papers the policy for admitting students “set no racial quotas, goals or targets” and is administered in a “race-blind” manner.
“Board regulators forbid consideration of race in admissions decisions, and all applications are anonymized so evaluators do not know the race of any individual applicant,” he argued. He noted that final admissions decisions are due this month and that overhauling the admissions policy now would be “convulsive.”