Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, or “TJ,” in Fairfax County, Virginia, is the nation’s top-ranked public high school. It’s also over 70% Asian-American. Until last fall, admission to TJ rested largely on a student’s performance on a race-blind standardized admissions test. Vocally displeased that the demographics of TJ’s student body do not match the demographics of its school district as a whole, the Fairfax County school board recently eliminated the standardized admissions test and instituted a new admissions system which the Plaintiff, Coalition for TJ, believes is designed to achieve the school board’s racial balancing goals. Under the new system, the Coalition for TJ projects that Asian-American enrollment—and only Asian-
American enrollment—in the incoming TJ freshman class will drop by over 40%.
Represented by Pacific Legal Foundation, last month the Coalition for TJ filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia alleging that the school district’s new admission policy amounts to racial balancing in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Against a backdrop of perceived increased anti-Asian bias and concerns over equity in admissions in secondary and higher education, Coalition for TJ v. Brabrand offers the chance to discuss whether school districts are attempting to racially balance public schools and why the facts of the Coalition for TJ case make it a particularly good vehicle for a strategic challenge.
Erin Wilcox, Attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation
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