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Federal Judge Rules Virginia School’s Race-Driven Admissions Policies Unconstitutional

Students at a school in Seattle / Getty Images
• February 25, 2022 5:11 pm

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A federal judge ruled Friday that Fairfax County Public Schools' racially driven admissions policies for its magnet high school unconstitutionally discriminated against Asian-American applicants.

The Coalition for TJ, a parent group for students at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in March sued the Fairfax County School Board after they adopted admissions standards that intentionally reduced Asian-American admittance by 43 percent. Judge Claude Hilton of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division ruled against the district.

In October 2020, the Fairfax County School Board eliminated the entrance exam for Thomas Jefferson. The board then capped the number of students each of the district's middle schools could send to the elite, STEM-focused high school. The number of white students admitted to Thomas Jefferson's freshman class skyrocketed after the district changed the admissions policies. The school admitted 43 percent more white students, and 16 percent fewer Asian students, to the class of 2025, the Washington Free Beacon previously reported.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, which represented Coalition for TJ, claimed the updated practice targeted Asian Americans, as three Fairfax schools known for farming students to Thomas Jefferson are largely Asian-American schools. Two Fairfax County school board members admitted in texts revealed as part of the lawsuit in January that anti-Asian sentiment influenced the entrance policy change.

A Pacific Legal Foundation attorney hailed Hilton's decision in a statement.

"This is a monumental win for parents and students here in Fairfax County, but also for equal treatment in education across the country," said 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."