Important New Lawsuit Challenges Attempt...ic High School. The case could set an important precedent because it addresses facially neutral attempts at racial balancing, and because the school in question is currently over 70% Asian-American, and new policy seeks to reduce that percentage.
by ILYA SOMIN
Reason Magazine
3.16.2021 4:59 PM

Last week, a group of primarily Asian-American parents filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of new admissions policies at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, in Fairfax, Virginia.

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As described in the complaint filed by the plaintiffs, the key to the new admissions system is a system under which the previous admissions test (on which Asian-American applicants tended to score well) is eliminated, and replaced with a "holistic" evaluation system under which there are caps on the number of students who can be admitted from any given middle school in Fairfax County. The latter would have the effect of greatly reducing the number of Asian-American students accepted, because Asian students are disproportionately concentrated in some middle schools, relative to others.

The TJ case could sent important precedents on two major issues: how to deal with cases where racial affirmative action policies are pursued by policies that are facially neutral, and how to address situations where a major goal of the policy is to reduce the number of Asian-American students.

The mere fact the new admissions system would result in fewer Asian-American students does not make the policy unconstitutional. Neither does the possibility that the new policy might reduce the quality of education at TJ overall. Rather, the problem is that extensive evidence indicates that the change in admissions policy is motivated by policymakers' desire to reduce the percentage of Asian-American students, so that the TJ student body will more closely reflect the demographics of the region.

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