Pacific Legal Foundation, which represents Asian American families in the Coalition for TJ, said their attorneys will head to the U.S. Supreme Court to appeal a decision this week in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, allowing Fairfax County Public Schools to continue its new admissions changes to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.

The changes, which the Fairfax County school board passed in December 2020, eliminated the merit admissions tests to the prestigious advanced education school and replaced them with a process called “holistic.” In 2021, the Coalition for TJ filed a lawsuit challenging the changes as discriminating against Asian American students. The group points to the fact that the percentage of Asian American students admitted to TJ dropped from 74% in 2020 to 57% in 2021 after the changes were implemented.

In February 2022, a federal district court judge in Alexandria, Claude Hilton, ruled in favor of the Coalition for TJ, finding that the changes to the admissions process were “patently unconstitutional.” The judge ordered Fairfax County Public Schools to stop using the new policy.

The school district appealed the district court’s ruling to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. On Tuesday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Coalition for TJ’s argument, in a 2-1 decision. In an opinion written by Judge Robert B. King and joined by Judge Toby Heytens, the two judges found that the changes to the admissions process were narrowly tailored to achieve the goal of increasing diversity at TJ and that Asian American students still had “success” with admissions to the school. 

The lone dissenting judge, Allison Jones Rushing, wrote that the “undisputed contemporaneous evidence makes plain the Board’s intent to racially balance TJ to reduce Asian student enrollment.”

The highly anticipated ruling addressed the controversial admissions policies at TJ. The case, which has garnered considerable international attention, is poised to have far-reaching implications in education in the U.S. on issues related to admissions, fairness, and merit.

“We are disappointed by the ruling, but we are not discouraged,” said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Erin Wilcox. “Discrimination against students based on their race is wrong and violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. We look forward to asking the Supreme Court to end this illegal practice once and for all.”

“The court reached the correct decision, and we firmly believe this admission plan is fair and gives qualified applicants at every middle school a fair chance of a seat at TJ,” John Foster, the school board’s division counsel, said in a statement. “We look forward to offering seats to a new group of remarkable and incredibly well-qualified young scholars in the years to come.”

Pacific Legal Foundation has until August 21 to file for certiorari, or certification, to argue the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The school board will have a short deadline to respond. The Supreme Court will then decide whether to hear the case.

“Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology has long been a symbol of academic excellence and a crown jewel in America’s educational system, and it has played an integral role in nurturing the talents of some of the brightest minds in our nation,” said Ying Julie McCaskill, a TJ mother and an immigrant from China. “We will take out fight to the Supreme Court to advocate for values of merit, fairness, and equality.”

“Pacific Legal’s decision to appeal this ruling to the highest court in the land reflects our confidence in the strength of our legal arguments and the validity of our cause,” said Helen Miller, the mother of a TJ alumnus. “We firmly believe that the United States Supreme Court will recognize the importance of equal opportunity and the need to strike down discriminatory admissions at TJHSST.”

(1) comment


There are only three racists on the US Supreme Court so the TJ will surely need to change their policy of equal outcome back to equal opportunity based on measurable achievement.

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