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The Supreme Court leaves in place the admissions plan at an elite Virginia public high school

| February 20, 2024 8:35 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Tuesday left in place the admissions policy at an elite public high school in Virginia, despite claims that it discriminates against highly qualified Asian Americans.

A panel of the federal appeals court in Richmond upheld the constitutionality of a revamped admissions policy at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, frequently cited among the best in the nation.

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented from the order rejecting an appeal from parents. The appeals court essentially ruled that “intentional racial discrimination is constitutional so longas it is not too severe,” Alito wrote.

The high court's consideration of the case followed its decision in June that struck down admissions policies at colleges and universities that took account of the race of applicants.

The Fairfax County School Board overhauled the admissions process in 2020, scrapping a standardized test. The new policy gives weight in favor of applicants who are economically disadvantaged or still learning English, but it does not take race into account.

The effect in the first freshmen class admitted under it was to increase the percentage of Black students from 1% to 7% and Hispanic students from 3% to 11%. Both groups have been greatly underrepresented for decades. Asian American representation decreased from 73% to 54%.

In 2022, a federal judge found the school board engaged in impermissible “racial balancing” when it overhauled admissions.

The parents who challenged the policy say it discriminates against Asian American applicants who would have been granted admission if academic merit were the sole criteria, and that efforts to increase Black and Hispanic representation necessarily come at the expense of Asian Americans.