This afternoon a Federal District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, handed down a summary judgment in favor of parents who sued Fairfax County Public Schools for the recent changes in the admissions process for Thomas Jefferson High School, the extremely selective public high school that emphasizes math and science.
The case, Coalition for TJ v. Fairfax County School Board, strikes a significant blow to race-conscious policies in education. The County Board had junked the admissions test system that had previously governed adopted a “holistic” admissions process in favor of a “holistic” system that is a euphemism for admission quotas. The opinion uses the traditional civil rights device of “disparate impact” against the race-mongers, which was eventually going to happen:
From the opinion by Judge Claude M. Hilton (a Reagan appointee):
Throughout this process, Board members and high-level FCPS officials expressed their desire to remake TJ admissions because they were dissatisfied with the racial composition of the school. A means to accomplish their goal of achieving racial balance was the decrease enrollment of the only racial group “overrepresented” at TJ—Asian-Americans. The Board employed proxies that disproportionately burden Asian-American students. Asian Americans received far fewer offers to TJ after the Board’s admissions policy overhaul. . .
This case presents substantial evidence of disparate impact. The undisputed evidence demonstrates precisely how the Board’s actions caused, and will continue to cause, substantial racial impact. The Board instituted a system that does not treat all applicants to TJ equally. . .
It is clear that Asian-American students are disproportionately harmed by the Board’s decision to overhaul TJ admissions. Currently and in the future, Asian-American applicants are disproportionately deprived of a level playing field in competing for both allocated and unallocated seats. Placing the Board’s actions in historical context leaves little doubt that its decision to overhaul the TJ admissions process was racially motivated.
Some of the opinion rests on the rushed and deceptive process by which the Fairfax County School Board planned and implemented the changes (this was done to demonstrate the Board’s illegal racial motivation), but much of the opinion shows how the Board’s new policy exceeded even the lenient provisions of past Supreme Court opinions in race in admissions.
This would seem like an omen for the Harvard and UNC admissions cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. It will be interesting to see whether FCPS appeals the case.
Kudos to our friends at the Pacific Legal Foundation who pursued the case in behalf of 200 Virginia families.