Attorney General Jason Miyares and 15 other state attorneys general have filed an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court decision allowing Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) to use its controversial admissions process while a lawsuit goes forward.
“Right now, there are innocent Virginians unfairly treated and punished not for anything they’ve done, but because of who they are. Thomas Jefferson High School’s new admissions process is state sanctioned bigotry – it’s wrong, and it’s the exact opposite of equality. As Attorney General, I’ll never stop fighting for the equal treatment and protection of all Virginians,” Miyares said in a press release.
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 Fourth Circuit Court took the opposite position issuing a stay of the lower court order, allowing use of the process to continue for now.
Judge Toby Heytens said in the concurring opinion that the district court relied on comparing the percentage of Asian-American applicants offered admission under the new policy versus the number of Asian-American applicants offered admission under the old policy, but argued that was the wrong comparator.
“To me, the more obviously relevant comparator for determining whether this race-neutral admissions policy has an outsized impact on a particular racial group is the percentage of applicants versus the percentage of offers,” he wrote.
On April 8, the coalition, represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), filed an emergency request with the Supreme Court to vacate the Fourth Circuit Court’s stay.
“The Fourth Circuit’s decision to allow TJ’s discriminatory process to continue will cause significant harm to the students who are going through the admissions process for the next school year,” PLF Attorney Glenn Roper said in a press release.
Miyares’ amicus brief supports the PLF’s request, and is also signed by attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.
Responding to Heytens’ opinion about analyzing the policy, the brief cites Grutter v. Bollinger, and states, “This reasoning is hopelessly irreconcilable with the command of equal protection. For one thing, it would bless unadorned racial balancing for its own sake, which is ‘patently unconstitutional.'”
Citing an opinion from Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, the brief concludes, “The sort of race-based exclusion from educational benefits intended by the Board ‘is precisely the sort of government action that pits the races against one another, exacerbates racial tension, and provokes resentment among those who believe that they have been wronged by the government’s use of race.'”
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Thomas Jefferson High School” by Thomas Jefferson High School.