Supreme Court rejects case alleging discrimination against Asian American students in Virginia

Supreme Court rejects case alleging discrimination against Asian American students in VirginiaSupreme Court rejects case alleging discrimination against Asian American students in Virginia
via Adam Michael Szuscik on Unsplash
Michelle De Pacina
February 21, 2024
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case alleging discrimination against Asian American students in admissions at the elite Thomas Jefferson (TJ) High School for Science and Technology in Virginia. 
About the case: The case challenged the Fairfax County School Board’s admissions policy at the high school, which previously adopted what the school board claims to be race-neutral criteria to achieve a diverse student body in December 2020. The Coalition for TJ, a group of mostly Asian American parents of prospective students, argued it unfairly penalized Asian American students based on race. In its case filing in August last year, the group alleged that the school’s admissions plan was designed to “achieve the same results as overt racial discrimination,” echoing the Supreme Court decision against race-conscious admissions practices by colleges.
“Today, the American Dream was dealt a blow, but we remain committed to protecting the values of merit, equality, and justice — and we will prevail for the future of our children and for the nation we love and embrace,” Asra Nomani, co-founder of Coalition for TJ, said in a statement released on Tuesday.
How it began: The case stems from changes the school made to its admissions process in response to concerns about an underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic students. Officials decided to alter admissions standards, including eliminating a rigorous entry exam and offering admission to top students from each middle school in the area, rather than the top applicants overall.
The Coalition for TJ first filed a lawsuit against the Fairfax school board over its alleged discrimination against Asian American student applicants in January 2022. While a federal judge ruled the following month that the admissions policy was indeed illegal and discriminatory, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond overturned the decision in May. The Pacific Legal Foundation, which represents the Coalition for TJ, then filed to overturn that decision in their favor.
Policy’s effect: The policy had reportedly allocated a majority of seats based on local middle schools, leading to a decrease in Asian American students. Justice Samuel Alito, who dissented and criticized the decision, asserted that it allows for racial discrimination with impunity. 
“What the Fourth Circuit majority held, in essence, is that intentional racial discrimination is constitutional so long as it is not too severe. This reasoning is indefensible, and it cries out for correction,” Alito argued. “The percentage of white, Hispanic, and black students increased, while the percentage and number of Asian American students sharply dropped. In prior years, the offer rate for Asian American students had hovered between 65 and 75 [%] of the school’s total offers. Under the new policy, Asian Americans received 54.36 [%] of the offers. In fact, even though the entering class expanded by 64 seats, the number of seats offered to Asian Americans decreased by 56.”
Critics argued the policy aimed to reduce Asian American representation, while supporters claimed it addressed socioeconomic obstacles. The refusal to hear the case suggests the Supreme Court is not immediately expanding on its previous decision against race-based affirmative action in college admissions.
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