High school “racial balancing policy” lawsuit

Ilya Somin:

The 25-page suit, filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against Brabrand and the Fairfax school board, charges that the revisions to TJ’s admissions process were specifically meant to drive down the number of Asian American students enrolled at the school and cites presentations and comments made by the superintendent and school board members to try to prove that point.

As described in the complaint filed by the plaintiffs, the key to the new admissions system is a system under which the previous admissions test (on which Asian-American applicants tended to score well) is eliminated, and replaced with a “holistic” evaluation system under which there are caps on the number of students who can be admitted from any given middle school in Fairfax County. The latter would have the effect of greatly reducing the number of Asian-American students accepted, because Asian students are disproportionately concentrated in some middle schools, relative to others.

The TJ case could sent important precedents on two major issues: how to deal with cases where racial affirmative action policies are pursued by policies that are facially neutral, and how to address situations where a major goal of the policy is to reduce the number of Asian-American students.

The mere fact the new admissions system would result in fewer Asian-American students does not make the policy unconstitutional. Neither does the possibility that the new policy might reduce the quality of education at TJ overall. Rather, the problem is that extensive evidence indicates that the change in admissions policy is motivated by policymakers’ desire to reduce the percentage of Asian-American students, so that the TJ student body will more closely reflect the demographics of the region. The plaintiffs’ complaint gives many examples, such as this one: