Lawsuit challenges new admissions policy at Thomas Jefferson high school

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A new lawsuit accuses a northern Virginia school district of discriminating against Asian Americans by overhauling the admissions process at a selective public high school to recruit more Black and Hispanic students.

The group Coalition for TJ is suing Fairfax County Public Schools and Superintendent Scott Brabrand over the admissions policies at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.

“This racial balancing violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment,” said lawyer Erin Wilcox of the Pacific Legal Foundation, which helped bring the suit.

At a virtual news conference Wednesday, parent Harry Jackson said, “Under the guise of racial equity, it’s a targeted hit on the Asian community.”

The student body is 70% Asian American, with miniscule numbers of Black and Hispanic students.

The school is frequently ranked among the best in the country, and families plan for years to try to help their children gain admission.

The Fairfax County school board voted last year to overhaul the admissions process and eliminate a standardized test that had been a key part of the evaluation process. Board members have said they hope the new process increases Black and Hispanic representation in the student body.

Opponents of the change argue that the new policy unfairly punishes Asian Americans for being successful academically. Similar debates have occurred at other elite public schools in New York city, San Francisco and elsewhere.

In an email to WTOP, a Fairfax County Public Schools spokeswoman said the school board “fervently supported removing the historical barriers and inequities faced by students from culturally and ethnically diverse socioeconomic backgrounds” but that the admissions process “continues to be race neutral and merit-based.”

WTOP’s John Aaron contributed to this report.

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