Supreme Court Asked To Consider Top High School’s ‘Racial Balancing’ Admissions Policy

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Just two months after the Supreme Court handed down its decision banning racial preferences in college admissions, a parents group asked the Supreme Court Monday to take up a case considering whether the admissions policies at one of the nation’s top high schools discriminate based on race.

Coalition for TJ, backed by the Pacific Legal Foundation, argues the district only changed Thomas Jefferson High School’s merit-based admissions policies in 2020 to “racially balance the freshman class by excluding Asian Americans,” according to the petition filed Monday. New policies designed to “improve racial diversity,” which Coalition for TJ says violate the Equal Protection Clause even though they are “facially race-neutral,” include eliminating testing requirements and capping the number of students admitted from each middle school.

“Coming as it does on the heels of last Term’s decision curtailing racial discrimination in higher education admissions, this is one of several ongoing challenges to competitive K-12 admissions criteria that seek to accomplish a racial objective ‘indirectly’ because it ‘cannot be done directly,'” Coalition for TJ wrote in their petition.

The percentage of Asian-American students at TJ dropped from 73% to 53% after the first year of the new policy, while the percentage of Black and Hispanic students increased, according to Reuters.

“The Supreme Court made clear in Students for Fair Admission that the Constitution bans discrimination based on race, full stop,” Joshua Thompson, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “TJ’s admission overhaul tried to hide its discriminatory purpose behind a patina of race-neutrality. But the school’s proxy discrimination clearly violated Chief Justice Robert’s warning against indirect discrimination.” (RELATED: Law School Org Hosts Conference On How To Keep Racially Discriminating In Admissions)

Proponents of affirmative action hold signs during a protest at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on July 1, 2023. The US Supreme Court on June 27 banned the use of race and ethnicity in university admissions, dealing a major blow to a decades-old practice that boosted educational opportunities for African-Americans and other minorities. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

Proponents of affirmative action hold signs during a protest at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on July 1, 2023. (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton for the Eastern District of Virginia initially backed the Coalition in February 2022. But the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the school’s policy in May, finding that the Coalition failed to demonstrate it was motivated by “discriminatory intent.”

“[T]he 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,” Judge Robert B. King, a Clinton appointee, wrote in the majority opinion. The court noted Asian American students made up 48.59% of applications in 2021 and still secured 54.36% of the spots.

The Coalition argues in its petition that there is “urgency to address these issues now, rather than later,” pointing to universities’ efforts to circumvent the Court’s ruling striking down affirmative action.

“Some universities are already strategizing how to get around this Court’s ruling in SFFA, and they are looking to the panel decision below as the roadmap to do so,” the petition states. “Only a decision from this Court can resolve this question and ultimately stop this troubling trend.”

Universities quickly began considering new ways to maintain racial quotas without explicitly using racial preferences following the decision, including adding new essay questions and implementing “adversity scores.”

The Fairfax County School Board did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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