“We won! You won! Our families stood up with moral courage against racism.”
We have covered numerous schemes by admissions offices to lower Asian enrollment through various subterfuges centered on deemphasizing or eliminating the weight given to standardized testing. The schemes never come right out and admit what they are doing, they usually couch it in vague soft factors and gibberish about “equity”.
We’ve seen in in higher education with the Harvard case accepted for review by the Supreme Court, and in K-12 with the Boston “Zip Code Quota Plan” that so far has survived court challenge, and is on appeal.
We also covered the Lawsuit Alleging Anti-Asian Discrimination In Admissions Change At Top-Ranked Virginia High School, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (“TJ”) .
1. Plaintiff Coalition for TJ (Coalition) brings this civil rights lawsuit for declaratory
and injunctive relief to vindicate the rights of Asian-American public school children in and around
Fairfax County, Virginia, to compete on an equal footing for admission to the nationally-ranked
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) without regard to their race.
2. TJ is an Academic-Year Governor’s School administered by Fairfax County Public
Schools (FCPS). This action concerns FCPS’ recently-implemented overhaul of the TJ admissions
process, which eliminated the long-standing race-neutral standardized admissions test. The
Coalition alleges that these changes were specifically intended to reduce the percentage of AsianAmerican students who enroll in TJ, with the ultimate goal of racially balancing the school
according to the racial demographics of Fairfax County.
* * *
5. Overwhelming public evidence exists that the new TJ admissions process was
adopted with the purpose of disadvantaging Asian-American students and reducing AsianAmerican enrollment at TJ. As such, these changes violate the Equal Protection Clause.
There were a variety of litigation developments, including denial of a preliminary injunction because the new school year was too close in time, but the case wound its way through the court to the summary judgment stage. Summary judgment is where the court can grant judgement as a matter of law where the material facts are not in dispute, so no trial would be needed.
And that’s just what the federal court just did. From the Pacific Legal press release:
Today, a federal judge ruled that Fairfax County school officials violated the law by changing admissions requirements at the nation’s top public school to deliberately reduce the number of Asian-American students enrolled.
Last March, a coalition of parents, students, alumni, and community members filed a lawsuit challenging admissions changes at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ).
“This is a monumental win for parents and students here in Fairfax County, but also for equal treatment in education across the country,” said PLF attorney Erin Wilcox. “We hope this ruling sends the message that government cannot choose who receives the opportunity to attend public schools based on race or ethnicity.”
Until last year, admission to TJ was race-blind and merit-based; requirements included a standardized test, grade-point average, completion of certain math classes, and teacher recommendations. Last year, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ board and superintendent adopted an admissions policy aimed at balancing the racial groups at TJ by eliminating the admissions test, guaranteeing seats for 1.5 percent of each middle school’s eighth grade class, and awarding bonus points for various factors such as attendance at a middle school previously underrepresented at TJ. The intended result: dramatically reducing the number of Asian-American students admitted to TJ.
Pacific Legal Foundation represents the Coalition for TJ free of charge. Coalition for TJ v. Fairfax County School Board was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division. Judge Hilton granted the Coalition’s motion for summary judgment, giving them a win in the case.
From the Decision:
Here, no dispute of material fact exists regarding any of the Arlington Heights factors, nor as to the ultimate question that the Board acted with discriminatory intent. Under Arlington Heights, disparate impact is the starting point for determining whether the Board acted with discriminatory intent. The Board’s overhaul of TJ admissions has had, and will have, a substantial disparate impact on Asian American applicants to TJ.
A comparison of publicly available data for the Class of 2025 with earlier classes tells much of the story. As depicted in the table below, the number and proportion of Asian-American students offered admission to TJ fell following the challenged changes….
It is clear that Asian-American students are disproportionately harmed by the Board’s decision to overhaul TJ admissions. Currently and in the future, Asian-American applicants are disproportionately deprived of a level playing field in competing for both allocated and unallocated seats. Placing the Board’s actions in historical context leaves little doubt that its decision to overhaul the TJ admissions process was racially motivated….
The impetus to overhaul TJ admissions came from several sources, all of which confirm that the Board and high-level FCPS actors set out to increase and decrease the representation of certain racial groups at TJ to align with districtwide enrollment data. Board members promised action on TJ admissions that would specifically address the school’s racial makeup. After the summer state task force, FCPS officials scrambled to meet a perceived deadline from Richmond to overhaul admissions with race in mind….
WE WON! @coalitionforTJ and @PacificLegal WON! Judge Claude Hilton rules Fairfax County Public Schools is discriminating against Asians in its new admissions policy to Thomas Jefferson HS for Science and Technology. The American dream won!Read decision: https://t.co/d509L0Za6W pic.twitter.com/EUMmUQHDyw
— Asra Q. Nomani 🐻 (@AsraNomani) February 25, 2022
We won! You won! Our families stood up with moral courage against racism. @coalitionforTJ and @PacificLegal won! Judge Claude Hilton ruled today that Fairfax County Public Schools is racist and discriminatory in its new admissions policy. It must end! https://t.co/7O0mZVThdP
— Coalition for TJ #WeWon! (@coalitionforTJ) February 25, 2022
Today’s decision reaffirms that TJ’s admissions should be based on merit. We thank the parents who stood up for their children. We will work everyday to ensure that every student across VA has a quality education so they can dream big dreams and be prepared for success in life.
— Governor Glenn Youngkin (@GovernorVA) February 25, 2022
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