Why it matters: The case could be a test of “race-neutral” admissions policies.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on race-conscious affirmative action in college admissions, but the Thomas Jefferson case could break new ground.
The high school’s new admissions criteria never even mention race, but the lawsuit challenges the use of race-neutral “surrogates.”
“In our view, they are using racial proxies to get racial outcomes,” said Joshua P. Thompson, an attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative legal group that is Help parents, many of them Asian-American, with their lawsuits.
The high school applauded the decision. John Foster, department counselor for Fairfax County Public Schools, said, “We firmly believe this admissions program is fair and provides a fair study.”
Context: Asian American parents object to new admissions strategies.
In late 2020, officials in Fairfax County, Virginia, worried about the school’s insignificant black and Hispanic student population, changed the admissions criteria at Thomas Jefferson High School, which attracts students from across the county.
As a result, the percentage of black students rose from 1 percent of the class to 7 percent, while the percentage of Asian students fell from 73 percent to 54 percent, the lowest level in years.
A group of parents, many of them Asian-American, objected to the new plan and started TJ Union. The coalition filed the lawsuit with help from the Pacific Legal Foundation, which has New York and Montgomery County, Maryland.
What’s next: Could end efforts to eliminate racial disparities.
The ruling was widely expected and the case is now likely to be reviewed in the Supreme Court.
A Supreme Court ruling in favor of plaintiffs in the TJ case would be the next step in ending any consideration of race — in this case, through the use of proxies like ZIP code or income — to promote racial equity through education and other public programs.
in the upcoming Paper In the Stanford Law Review, Sonja B. Starr, a professor of law and criminology at the University of Chicago, wrote that the plaintiffs are “laying the groundwork for larger legal changes” that could bar any public policy efforts aimed at closing the racial gap.
In an interview, Ms. Starr predicted that TJ’s case could eventually have reverberations in areas beyond education, such as fair housing, environmental permits and social welfare policy.
campbell robertson Contribution report. Kirsten Noyce contributed research.