By DENISE LAVOIE, AP legal affairs editor
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A new admissions policy at a prestigious northern Virginia high school does not discriminate against Asian American students and is not an attempt to achieve “racial balance,” a argues a school board in its response to an emergency petition filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by a coalition of parents trying to overturn the policy.
The Coalition for TJ group last week asked the High Court to overturn a decision by the 4th United States Circuit Court of Appeals allowing the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology to continue using its policy for admission while the Fairfax County School Board is appealing to a lower court. decision that found the policy to be discriminatory.
In a response filed Wednesday in the Supreme Court, the school board insisted its admissions policy is ‘racially neutral’ and said the 4th Circuit was ‘entirely within its authority’ to suspend the decision. of the lower court while the board appeals.
The board said the admissions policy does not set any racial quotas, goals or targets and is administered in a “race-blind” manner, with all applications anonymized so evaluators do not know an individual’s race. individual candidate.
“The district court simply slapped the pejorative ‘racial balancing’ tag on a racially neutral measure to improve geographic, socioeconomic and racial diversity, without any basis in the record,” the board said. in his response.
U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton ruled in February that impermissible “racial balance” was at the heart of the new selective school admissions policy near the nation’s capital. It is often ranked as one of the best public high schools in the country.
Hilton also denied a school system request to delay implementation of its decision, but a three-judge 4th Circuit panel said the school board had met the legal requirements for a stay of Hilton’s order while his appeal is pending.
For decades, black and Hispanic students have been underrepresented in the student body. After criticizing its lack of diversity, the school board abandoned a standardized test that was central to the admissions process and instead opted for a process that reserves slots at each of the county’s colleges. It also includes “experience factors” like socio-economic background.
The parent group argued in its lawsuit that Asian Americans, who made up more than 70% of the student body, were being unfairly targeted in the new policy.
The school’s current freshman class, which was admitted under the new policy, saw a very different racial makeup. Black students jumped from 1% to 7%; Hispanic representation increased from 3% to 11%. Asian American representation fell from 73% to 54%.
The school board said it would suffer irreparable harm if it were forced to change its policy now because the selection process for the incoming freshman class is already well underway. Final admissions decisions are expected this month. “Redesigning the admissions process at this late date would be convulsive,” the school board argued in its response.
The case has been closely watched as courts continue to assess the role racial considerations can play when deciding who should be admitted to a particular school. Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear a similar case alleging that Harvard University discriminates against Asian Americans in its admissions process.
The parent group said the 4th Circuit judges made a “serious error” in allowing the school system to continue using its new admissions process.
“Every American should be offended and outraged by the arrogance of the Fairfax County School Board in insisting on clinging to its state-sponsored racism and discrimination,” said Asra Nomani, co-founder of Coalition for TJ and mother of a graduating class of 2021. .
“We are confident that the Chief Justice of the United States (John Roberts) will make a decision on the right side of history for equality before the law for all.”
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.