A federal court last month ruled (PDF) against the Fairfax County School Board after it lowered admissions standards for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology to increase admissions for black and Hispanic students and decrease admissions for students of Asian descent.
A coalition of parents, students, alumni, and others filed a lawsuit, alleging that the school board deliberately set out to decrease the proportion of Asians students. The board eliminated standardized tests and set aside slots to admit the top students from underrepresented middle schools. The board achieved its goal.
But the judge wasn’t having it. He said that the board’s goal to achieve racial balancing at the elite magnet school to represent the population is not a compelling government interest. Racial balancing for its own sake is “patently unconstitutional.”
On appeal, the Fairfax County School Board asked for a stay on the ruling, which the court rejected.
Newsweek reported that the board is defying the court’s ruling and continuing to discriminate against Asian students. At a board meeting last week, members walked out. They apparently didn’t want to listen to parents accuse them of ignoring the court ruling. The next day, the court denied the board’s motion for a stay.
Now, the riptide of contention has rolled into this week as the school district has announced it is seeking an appeal to Friday’s ruling against their admissions process at the highly selective magnet school.
In a statement released Monday, the Fairfax County School Board said its appeal filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit challenges Hilton’s ruling that would invalidate what they described as their “race-neutral admissions process” at TJHS. The school board also plans to ask the appeals court to stay the ruling to allow it to complete the selection process for the incoming freshman class.
In a statement, the Fairfax County School Board called the court’s ruling “highly damaging,” and that failing “to challenge it would jeopardize race-neutral diversity efforts not just within Fairfax County Public Schools or at TJHS, but also within public education more broadly. The School Board believes that Judge Hilton’s decision does not reflect extensive federal case law that supports race-neutral admissions, and is asking the federal appeals court to review the decision.”
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