Fairfax County School Board Appeals Thomas Jefferson Admissions

The Fairfax County School Board in Virginia filed an appeal on Monday against a judge’s ruling that would halt a new admissions policy at Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology.

The Fairfax County School Board in Virginia filed an appeal on Monday against a judge’s ruling that would halt a new admissions policy at Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology.

In a statement on U.S. District Court Judge Claude Hilton’s decision, the board called the ruling “very harmful.”

“This non-challenge will jeopardize efforts to neutralize racial diversity not only in Fairfax County public schools or in TJ, but also in public education more broadly,” the council statement said.

“The Board of Trustees believes Judge Hilton’s decision does not reflect a broad federal ruling that supports neutral racial acceptance, and it is asking the Federal Court of Appeals to review the decision.”

On Friday, Hilton rejected a request from Fairfax County public schools to delay the implementation of its ruling. In that ruling, he said the school system illegally aborted Asian Americans when it revamped the admissions policy of “TJ,” a highly sought-after school near the state capital, which is often ranked as the best public high school in the country.

But FCPS claimed that its selection process for the first class entering Thomas Jefferson was in progress, and the implementation of its ruling would now plunge the process into chaos.

The school system said it would also appeal the latest ruling.

“The school division’s intention was to design a process that would remove systemic screening barriers that have historically impacted talented students from diverse backgrounds. Equal access ensures that all candidates with potential and ability – regardless of circumstances or background – will have the opportunity to attend this governor’s school,” the council said.

“Changing for the right reason is always difficult. Although there have been struggles and challenges along the way, admission data for the 2025 class reflects our efforts to achieve greater access and opportunity across the county.”

Hilton said Friday that the school system has been aware for months that its process may be in jeopardy and that it must now be prepared to change it to eliminate aspects it believes are unconstitutional.

He said there is a risk of “irreversible harm to students who have been found to have been discriminated against” if the school system is allowed to use the same procedures for a second year in a row.

The case is closely watched as the courts continue to assess the role that racial considerations may play in deciding who should be admitted to a particular school. Similar debates have erupted in select public schools in New York, California and elsewhere. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a similar case alleging that Harvard University discriminated against Asian Americans in its admissions process.

Hilton ruled last month that unlawful “racial balance” was at the core of what prompted the district school board to change the admission at TJ.

For decades, black and Hispanic students were represented by an unfortunate lack of representation among the students. Following criticism of the lack of diversity, the school council abolished a standard test that was at the heart of the admissions process. She opted instead for a process that sets aside slots in each of the county‚Äôs middle schools. It also includes “experience factors” such as socio-economic background.

A parent group has sued a federal court, claiming that Asian Americans, who made up more than 70 percent of all TJ students, were unfairly targeted by the new policy.

The school’s current class of students, adopted under the new policy, saw a significantly different racial structure. Black students rose from 1% to 7%. Hispanic representation rose from 3% to 11%. Asian-American representation, meanwhile, has fallen from 73% to 54%.

The AP news agency contributed to this report.

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