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Supreme Court Allows Race-Neutral High School Admissions Policy to Continue Until Case Is Considered by 4th Circuit Court of Appeals

Apr 29, 2022

This past Monday, the Supreme Court announced its decision to temporarily allow the new race-neutral admissions policies adopted by the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, as reported by The New York Times. The high school had introduced new admissions criteria which were ultimately challenged by groups including the Coalition for TJ and the Pacific Legal Foundation.

According to The New York Times, Judge Claude M. Hilton of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia noted, “It is clear that Asian American students are disproportionately harmed by the board’s decision to overhaul T.J. admissions,” and declared the criteria to be unlawful.

The case was then taken to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, and a three-judge panel granted a stay, allowing the new admissions approach to stand. According to The Washington Post, the judges stated that the admissions program was a constitutional way to build a “geographically and socioeconomically diverse student body more representative of the five Northern Virginia districts that feed into the school.” The new admissions policies were to be kept in place for the second admissions cycle while trials ensued. According to The New York Times, Judge Toby J. Heytens also asserted that it is “constitutionally permissible to seek to increase racial (and other) diversity through race-neutral means.”

Afterward, the plaintiffs took to the Supreme Court to ask for a temporary block against the school policy during the continuation of the trial in the lower courts, as reported by USA Today. This past Monday, April 25th, the Supreme Court declined the emergency relief, offering no separate reasoning behind the decision. However, conservative Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., and Neil M. Gorsuch stated that they would have “said they would have reinstated a trial judge’s ruling blocking the new criteria” according to The New York Times.

As we await the Supreme Court decisions for Harvard and UNC race-conscious policy cases, admissions policies aiming to diversify the student population have faced much scrutiny. This decision might present a glimpse at the Supreme Court’s attitude toward the upcoming cases.

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