Judge to decide lawsuit alleging admissions discrimination

Jan 18, 2022, 10:40 AM | Updated: 1:44 pm

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — An elite public high school in northern Virginia discriminated against Asian American families when it overhauled its admissions policies amid a push to increase Black and Hispanic representation at the school, lawyers argued Tuesday.

A federal judge in Alexandria heard arguments on whether the new admissions policy at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology discriminates against Asian Americans, or simply tries to level the playing field so that other minorities can gain admission.

The case has garnered significant attention in part because of the school’s prestigious status: it was ranked the best public high school in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. Large numbers of graduates are routinely accepted to Ivy League schools, and parents in the region jockey to get their kids admitted.

But Black and Hispanic students have been woefully underrepresented in the student body for decades. In 2020, as the debate over racial equity intensified nationwide, the Fairfax County School Board significantly revised the admissions policy. Standardized tests that had been the key factor in admissions were scrapped, and a $100 application fee was eliminated.

Instead, the school board switched to a policy that guarantees admission to the top students at each of the county’s middle schools. It also takes into account factors like whether the child is eligible for free or reduced-price lunches because of his or her family’s income.

Chris Kiesar — an attorney for the The Coalition for TJ, which filed the lawsuit — said the geographic quotas are merely a proxy for racial quotas, and that the school board’s intent all along was to increase Black and Hispanic representation at the expense of Asian American families.

He said the school board was successful in doing so: in the first year that the new admissions policy took effect, Asian representation decreased from 73% to 54%. The percentage of Black students increased from 1% last year to 7%. Hispanic representation increased from 3% to 11% and white representation increased from 18% to 22%.

“Racial balancing was always at the forefront of what was going here,” he said. He cited comments made by school board members throughout the debate over changing the policy, which he said were always focused on racial composition. In court papers, lawyers for the coalition also cited text exchanges between board members in which one member says “there has been an anti asian feel underlying some of this, hate to say.”

Sona Rewari, an attorney for the school board, said there is nothing discriminatory about the new policy and that it is merely designed “to give top students from every part of Fairfax County a meaningful opportunity to attend TJ.”

She also argued that if the plaintiffs’ legal arguments were adopted, any effort to level the playing field to address past wrongs would automatically be unconstitutional, because increases for Black and Hispanic students would necessarily come at the expense of Asian students who make up a clear majority of the student body.

The proper standard, she said, is to determine whether the board acted with a desire to harm Asian Americans, and she said no evidence of that exists.

The case in Alexandria is being heard while the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing whether to hear a similar case filed by Asian families against Harvard University over its admissions policies.

U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton gave no indication at Tuesday’s hearing of how he might rule, but he said he sees no reason to hold a trial on the matter. That means his ruling will decide the case, though either side will be free to appeal.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - A man takes photos as a black plume rises over East Palestine, Ohio, as a result of a contro...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: Toxic gases connected to Ohio train derailment

A day after crews released and burned toxic chemicals transported by a wrecked train in Ohio, residents remain in the dark about what toxic substances could be lingering in their evacuated neighborhoods. About 50 cars, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed in a fiery crash Friday night in East Palestine, according to rail operator Norfolk […]
1 day ago
In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a s...
Associated Press

UN experts: North Korean hackers stole record virtual assets

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — North Korean hackers working for the government stole record-breaking virtual assets last year estimated to be worth between $630 million and more than $1 billion, U.N. experts said in a new report. The panel of experts said in the wide-ranging report seen Tuesday by The Associated Press that the hackers used […]
1 day ago
President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress, at the C...
Associated Press

Transcript: Biden’s second State of the Union address

Transcript of President Joe Biden’s second State of the Union address, as prepared for delivery and as provided by the White House: Mr. Speaker. Madam Vice President. Our First Lady and Second Gentleman. Members of Congress and the Cabinet. Leaders of our military. Mr. Chief Justice, Associate Justices, and retired Justices of the Supreme Court. […]
1 day ago
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on ...
Associated Press

President Joe Biden in State of Union attempts to reassure condition of nation

President Joe Biden called on Republicans in his State of the Union speech to work with him to “finish the job” of rebuilding the economy.
1 day ago
FILE - A CSX freight train sits on a siding in downtown Pittsburgh, Nov. 19, 2022. Several thousand...
Associated Press

In a first, some CSX railroad workers to get paid sick leave

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Several thousand workers at CSX will soon get one of the things that pushed the U.S. railroad industry to the brink of a strike last fall: paid sick time. CSX announced a deal Tuesday with two of its 12 unions, becoming the first major railroad to offer that benefit that most […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Trudeau says Canadian health care isn’t living up to promise

TORONTO (AP) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that Canada’s health care system isn’t living up to its promise, and he plans to add billions more in funding. Trudeau said wait times in emergency departments have become dangerously long, people are waiting too long for essential surgeries and millions of Canadians are without […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
Judge to decide lawsuit alleging admissions discrimination