The Supreme Court will not hear a new case about race and school admissions

The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for the use of admissions criteria intended to diversify the student body at an elite public high school in Virginia, declining to reconsider the role race can play in enrollment months after it sharply limited affirmative action programs in higher education.

In declining to challenge the policy that eliminated standardized tests, the court did not provide reasons, such as the common practice of issuing such orders. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. issued a dissent, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, in which he sharply criticized the appeals court’s decision in that case upholding the new criteria and rejecting challengers’ arguments that they unlawfully disadvantaged Asian Americans.

The Supreme Court in June struck down race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, but left open the constitutionality of admissions standards that do not directly consider race in an attempt to diversify enrollment.

The court’s decision not to take up the Virginia case, along with an order this month refusing to block West Point’s racially biased admissions program, suggests the majority of justices are reluctant to take immediate steps to explore the limits of their June ruling.

In his dissent Tuesday, Justice Alito expressed frustration.

“It is difficult to understand the Supreme Court’s willingness to swallow the anomalous decision below,” Justice Alito wrote. “We should wipe the decision off the books, and since the court refuses to do so, I must respectfully dissent.

The revisions to Virginia’s admissions program followed protests over the killing of George Floyd in 2020. Amid concerns about how few black and Hispanic students attend the school, one of the nation’s top public high schools, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va. , adopted what it said were race-neutral admissions standards. The school board did away with rigorous entrance exams and offered admission to the best students from every high school in the area, rather than the best applicants from any school.

Admissions officers were also instructed to consider “experience factors,” such as whether students were poor, English learners, or attending a “historically underrepresented” high school. But officers were not told the race, gender or name of any applicant.

A group of parents, many of whom were Asian Americans, opposed the plan and, calling themselves yes Coalition for TJ., sued to stop it.

But a divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., ruled in May that Thomas Jefferson did not discriminate in his admissions. The Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian legal group representing the parents, asked the Supreme Court to hear their appeal, saying the new admissions plan was “deliberately designed to achieve the same results as overt racial discrimination.”

Decision of the Supreme Court from June Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, coalition petition he said, “it might mean little if schools could achieve the same discriminatory result through race-neutral proxies.”

The school board’s attorneys responded that the new admissions criteria had nothing to do with race, but were focused on removing socioeconomic and geographic barriers.

“The new policy is both race-neutral and race-blind,” school board submission he said. “It is not designed to produce, and in fact has not produced, a student population that approximates the racial demographics of Fairfax County or any other predetermined racial balance.”

After the changes took effect in 2021, the percentage of Asian American students offered admission dropped to 54 percent from 73 percent. The percentage of black students rose to 8 percent from no more than 2 percent; the percentage of Hispanic students increased to 11 percent from 3 percent; and the percentage of white students increased to 22 percent from 18 percent.

U Fairfax County School System In 2020, about 37 percent of students were white, 27 percent Hispanic, 20 percent Asian, and 10 percent black.

Writing for the majority in the appeals court decision in May, Judge Robert B. King, appointed by President Bill Clinton, said the before and after numbers are not the right place to start. That, he said, citing a school board submission, would turn “the previous status quo into an unchanging quota.”

He added that the school has a legitimate interest in “broadening the range of student backgrounds”.

In Tuesday’s dissent, Justice Alito questioned that reasoning. “What the majority of the Fourth Circuit held, in essence, was that intentional racial discrimination is constitutional as long as it is not egregious,” Justice Alito wrote. “This rationale is indefensible and cries out for correction.”

He elaborated, citing an earlier decision. “Although the new policy had a ‘harder’ effect on Asian-American applicants (by reducing their chances of admission while improving the chances of all other racial groups), most of the panel felt that there was no disparate impact because they were still overrepresented in TJ the student body,” Justice Alito wrote.

He added: “This is a clear misunderstanding of what it means for a law or policy to have a disparate effect on members of a particular race or ethnic group. Under the old policy, every Asian American applicant had a certain chance of admission. With the new policy, that chance has been significantly reduced, while the chances of admitting members of other racial and ethnic groups have increased.”

In a Fourth Circuit dissent, Judge Allison J. Rushing, appointed by President Donald J. Trump, made a similar claim. The majority, she wrote, refused “to look past the neutral varnish of the policy” and instead considered “an undeniable racial motivation and an undeniable racial result.”

The decision has been reversed 2022 judgment by Judge Claude M. Hilton Federal District Court in Alexandria, which found that the school board’s changes disproportionately burdened Asian-American students and were “racially motivated.” The debate about the planned changes, he wrote, was “infested with talk of racial balance from the very beginning.”

“It is clear that Asian American students are disproportionately harmed by the board’s decision to review TJ enrollment,” Judge Hilton wrote. “Currently and in the future, Asian American applicants are disproportionately denied a level playing field.”

The Supreme Court has already had one encounter with the case, Coalition for TJ v. Fairfax County School Board, No. 23-170.

The court is in April 2022 refused the urgent request from the coalition to block new admissions criteria while the case moves forward. That was before the court’s decision in June to ban race-based admissions to higher education.

Despite this, the three most conservative members of the court – Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — said they would approve the request.

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