Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

Fairfax County School Board to Appeal Ruling Against New Thomas Jefferson High Admissions Policy

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The Fairfax County School Board plans to appeal a judge’s ruling against its new admissions policies at one of the top high schools in the country.

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology has been called the crown jewel of American public education. But a federal judge called the new admission policy racially discriminatory, twice ruling against it.

Asra Nomani's organization, Coalition for TJ, took the Fairfax County School Board to court to challenge the new admission policy.

"Nobody should be discriminated against for admissions into any school anywhere," she said.

The judge agreed, saying the board must eliminate all new aspects deemed to be unconstitutionally discriminatory.

"We don't believe that the ruling is in line with the extensive federal law that exists on race-neutral admissions initiatives," Fairfax County School Board Chair Stella Pekarsky said.

Thomas Jefferson is highly selective and for years has underrepresented Black and Hispanic students, which the new admission policy aimed to correct.

Since the change, Thomas Jefferson has increased acceptance by Black and Hispanic students, but Asian students, who previously made up more than 70% of the student body, fell by almost 20%.

“The students that were identified and are at TJ are academically exceptional students," Pekarsky said.

The case in Fairfax County has the eyes of the country on it as other prestigious high schools and universities consider admissions changes where race is a factor, including Harvard University.

This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether Harvard and other schools may continue to use race as a factor in the admissions process.

"This case in Fairfax County, Virginia, is an important, important case for not only for our students but our nation," Nomani said.

The Fairfax County School Board plans to file its appeal this week.

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