Parents filed a petition on Monday asking the US Supreme Court to decide whether an elite public high school, known as the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST), discriminates based on race in their admissions policy. The petition comes nearly two months after the court found that Harvard University’s consideration of race was unconstitutional, effectively ending the consideration of race in US college admissions.
A group of parents and students known as the Coalition for TJ originally sued the Fairfax County School Board (FCSB) claiming its updated admissions guidelines racially discriminate against Asian Americans. The plaintiffs allege that after a previous round of admissions when the admitted class was 73 percent Asian American, FCSB worked to increase the numbers of underrepresented Black and Hispanic students in future academic years. The petition claims the post-2020 policy adopted by FCSB “incorporated bonus points for factors such as attendance at a middle school that traditionally did not send many students to TJ, as well as eligibility for free or reduced priced lunch.”
The parents and students submitted the petition to ask the Supreme Court to find that TJHSST’s admissions policy violates the US Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, which prohibits racial discrimination. In May, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held the admissions policy did not disparately impact Asian American students with discriminatory intent, citing 2021’s admitted class included an uptick in low-income Asian American students.
According to the high school’s admissions page, it performs a “holistic” review of an aspiring student’s application, evaluating their grade point average, relevant skills for academic success like communication based on a student portrait sheet, a math or science problem-solving essay, and experience factors including if they are economically disadvantaged, an English language learner or qualify for special education. TJHSST accepts about 550 students each year.
In June, the Supreme Court effectively ended considerations of race in college admissions in their decision from the Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College. After the decision, a separate group sued Harvard University, claiming their legacy admissions policy disproportionately benefits white students which prompted an ongoing investigation by the US Department of Education.