Posted on March 18, 2022

School Board Defies Court Ruling of Discrimination Against Asian Students

Carly Mayberry, Newsweek, March 15, 2022

While bitter divisions over mask mandates and critical race theory have dominated school news in Loudoun County, Virginia, over the past few months, a separate battle has been waging fiercely in adjacent Fairfax County over equity policy.

It was late last week when the mounting wave of conflict between parents and Fairfax County School Board members over equity admissions policies at the acclaimed Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHS) spilled over.

That’s when school officials walked out of their own meeting on Thursday after parents protested the board’s refusal to comply with the federal ruling that they had violated the law by changing the school’s admissions to limit the number of Asian American students enrolled.

Then, on Friday, the board’s motion for a stay of the court’s prior ruling, which would have allowed the Fairfax County Public Schools district to complete admissions for the next freshman class with the old admissions policy, was denied.

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.

It was back on February 25 that U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton ruled that the northern Virginia school system was guilty of discriminating against Asian American students when it opted to change its merit-based admissions policies.

In the wake of criticism over a lack of diversity, the school board decided to eliminate a standardized test that was central to getting admitted. It also chose to set aside slots from the county’s middle schools and incorporated “experience factors” like a prospective student’s socioeconomic background as part of the admissions process. The efforts toward a procedure based on how “disadvantaged” a student is resulted in the school having to offer remedial math.

Critics of the changes, some of whom are part of the grassroots Coalition for TJ, a group of parents, students and community members advocating for both diversity and excellence in the school, alleged that the school desires to reduce its majority of Asian American students in favor of admitting more Blacks, Hispanics and whites.

It was after Hilton made his initial ruling that School Board Chair Stella Pekarsky said it was “so inconsistent with current law on diversity efforts” that the board couldn’t stand by and allow it to go unchallenged.


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. {snip}


The Virginia state-chartered magnet school is routinely rated among the best public high schools in the United States and historically has operated under a merit-based admissions policy. {snip}

“In the name of equity, the school board has been trying to lower the number of Asian Americans at the top math and science and technology high school in the nation,” Kenny Xu, author of the book An Inconvenient Minority, told Newsweek.

Xu said the school’s new proposal would have lowered the percentage of Asian Americans at the school from 73 percent to 50 percent, which would continue to dip every year.

“By attempting to create an admission policy that lowers the percentage of Asians and raises the percent of Black, Hispanic and whites, the school is actively discriminating against the most talented and hardest working people and sends a message that hard work is not enough—you also have to be the right race.”

Admissions data for 2021 gives credence to the decline in percentage of Asian American enrollments, which fell from 73 percent to 54 percent, according to numbers cited in January by Pacific Legal Foundation’s Chris Kieser. He was one of the attorneys that represented Coalition for TJ in the lawsuit. The Associated Press has also cited the enrollment of Black students increasing from 1 percent to 7 percent, and Hispanics from 3 percent to 11 percent, while white students have also increased.