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High school admissions policy not discriminatory against Asian Americans, federal court finds

A federal court ruled to uphold an admissions policy at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax, Virginia. According to The New York Times, the court rejected claims the policy discriminated against Asian American applicants.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued its ruling on Tuesday. It reversed a 2022 decision by Judge Claude M. Hilton of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia who found that the policy placed an unfair burden on Asian students.

The new policy was developed after the revelation that BIPOC and low-income students were underrepresented at T.J. For example, Black students made up just one percent of a class at T.J. in 2020, The New York Times reports. Data from Fairfax County Public Schools showed that during the 2019/20 school year around 8% of high school students in the district were Black students.

Asian students accounted for about 23% of the district’s high school student body that year and around 73% of an admitted class at T.J.

In 2021, the Fairfax County school board adopted a new policy that got rid of T.J.’s $100 application fee and admissions test, DCist reports. Applicants are now evaluated based on their grades, class rank at their middle schools and an admissions essay. The policy has helped increase the number of low-income and BIPOC students. According to The Washington Post, the class of 2025 is the most diverse in school history.

A group of Asian American parents, however, became upset after learning that the 73% fell to 54% after a change to the admissions policy. They started the Coalition for TJ to protest the policy, eventually filing a lawsuit that made its way up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

“The policy visits no racially disparate impact on Asian American students,” the court said in its opinion, according to DCist. “Indeed, those students have had greater success in securing admission to TJ under the policy than students from any other racial or ethnic group.”

The case will likely head to the U.S. Supreme Court.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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