Supreme Court Refuses to Require T.J. to Resume Prior Admissions Process

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.  Photo credit: New York Times

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

As reported today by The New York Times, the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday refused to require the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology to resume using its prior admissions process, pending an appeal of a judge’s decision overturning a new process adopted by the school board.

This issue has been the subject of several lengthy posts on this blog.

A federal judge overturned the school’s decision to drop its former admissions process that relied heavily on a standardized test and substitute a race-neutral process that instead allocated slots to each of the schools in the district and also considered “life experiences” in deciding which students to admit. In siding with opponents of the new process, who contended that it discriminated against Asian students, the district judge said that the changes were “racially motivated.”

The Fairfax County School Board appealed the decision. In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the U.S. Appeals Court granted a stay of the district court’s order while the appeal played out. One of the judges on the Appeals Court panel said in his opinion that the school board’s new admissions process met the Supreme Court requirements for race-neutral admissions.

The group challenging the new process asked the U.S. Supreme Court for an emergency order to overturn the stay while the appeal was in process. In an unsigned order, the Supreme Court refused to do so. Three of the Justices, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch, said they would have reinstated the federal judge’s decision blocking the new criteria.

The result is that T.J. will select a second class, using the new criteria, while the case makes its way through the appeals process.