U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Reverse Appellate Court Decision Allowing Thomas Jefferson High School to Use Controversial Admissions Policy

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a petition that would have reversed an appellate court’s decision that is allowing Thomas Jefferson (TJ) High School for Science and Technology to continue using its controversial admissions policy for the incoming freshman class.

After the court’s Monday announcement, Fairfax County Public Schools praised the decision in a statement.

“We continue to believe our new plan for TJ admissions is merit-based and race-blind,” Fairfax County School Board Chair Stella Pekarsky said. “We are confident that after considering the facts and the law, the appeals court will decide that our plan meets all the legal requirements and guarantees every qualified student will have the chance of being admitted to the finest public science and technology high school in the country.”

In 2020,  officials at the school instituted a merit lottery to try to expand the largely Asian-American student base to underrepresented groups while still maintaining a high standard. Parent group Coalition for TJ protested the decision, and launched a lawsuit against the school. A district court ruled that the process was discriminatory, but in March, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Court took the opposite position, issuing a stay of the district court’s order, allowing use of the process to continue while the lawsuit goes forward.

Coalition for TJ, represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), applied to Chief Justice John Roberts asking him to vacate the appellate court decision. Roberts referred the request to the U.S. Supreme Court. Three out of nine justices dissented with the decision to deny the plaintiffs’ request.

PLF Attorney Erin Wilcox told The Virginia Star, “It’s significant to garner three dissenters on this question.”

The lawsuit hasn’t yet been heard on the merits, according to Wilcox, who expects the school to make admissions decisions by April 30.

Briefing in the Fourth Circuit is ongoing and oral argument is set for the second week of September,” Wilcox said.

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Thomas Jefferson High School” by Thomas Jefferson High School.



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