Group of attorneys general asking U.S. Supreme Court to halt elite school’s ‘racial balancing’ admissions policy

The Virginia attorney general is now leading a cadre of 16 AGs from across the country aiming to strike down what he says is “an illegal effort” to have an elite high school’s enrollment mirror the racial composition of the region.

Jason S. Miyares’ brief, joined in by 15 other AGs, asks the U.S. Supreme Court to vacate an appeals court ruling that reinstated a new admissions policy at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County. The admissions policy, which replaced a purely merit-based one, eliminates standardized tests and takes into account such things as an applicant’s socioeconomic background.

Opponents of the policy say it will effectively reduce the number of Asian American students at Thomas Jefferson. Indeed, Asian American representation at the school – historically considered one of the best in the nation – decreased from 73% of the student body to 54% in the first year of the policy.

U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton had ruled in February that the admissions policy equated to illegal “racial balancing.” He issued an injunction to halt the policy immediately, but that ruling was set aside and the policy reinstated last month by a three-judge Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals panel. 

Miyares’ amicus brief – filed on behalf of a group of community members, parents, and alumni, dubbed the “Coalition for TJ” – asks the Supreme Court to lift the appellate order and block the controversial new admissions policy.

Attorneys general joining Virginia in the request are from: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

In a press release, Miyares calls the new admissions system “state-sanctioned bigotry.”

“Right now, there are innocent Virginians unfairly treated and punished, not for anything they’ve done but because of who they are,” he said in the statement.

In its response to Miyares’ brief, the school district argues its admissions policy is “race-neutral,” despite its disproportionate effect on Asian American students. The school board also argues that a change in the school’s admissions process at this time of year “would be convulsive,” with admissions due at the end of the month.

But parents from the Coalition for TJ say the Fourth Circuit Court made a “grave error” by allowing the school to continue its new admissions process.

Asra Nomani, mother of a 2021 graduate and co-founder of the coalition, told NBC News, “Every American should be offended and outraged by the arrogance of the Fairfax County School Board in insisting on clinging to its state-sponsored racism and discrimination.”