25 Sep 2023 Black Conservatives Join Legal Brief in U.S. Supreme Court Case Against Racist Admissions Practice at Elite Northern Virginia STEM School
Washington, D.C. – To hold the Fairfax County School Board accountable for racist admissions practices at the elite Thomas Jefferson High School in Northern Virginia and clarify the constitutional rights of individuals over preferred groups nationwide, ambassadors of the Project 21 black leadership network joined a legal brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a parents’ lawsuit against the Board.
Project 21 signed onto a amici curiae (“friends of the court”) brief with more than 20 other individuals and groups in the case of Coalition for TJ v. Fairfax County School Board that contends the Board violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment to favor particular races and ethnicities.
“The overt racial and ethnic discrimination within the Fairfax County Public Schools should raise serious concerns for parents nationwide,” said Project 21 member Melanie Collette, MPA. “Efforts to explicitly target any racial or ethnic group, while excluding others, hinders progress towards achieving true racial equality.”
The case against the Fairfax County School Board in Northern Virginia – just outside the nation’s capital – was brought by parents, students and community members of the elite Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. The public school had relied upon a rigorous admissions process in the past. But, as the brief noted, the Board “engineered a new admissions system designed to alter the racial composition” of the student body that Board Chair Karen Corbett Sanders said would “address the underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic students.” In practice, the new standards harmed the prospects of Asian applicants. Rejected students, the brief asserts, “were rejected… not because they were less qualified, but because those in power believed they could make society more equitable by redistributing TJ admissions according to skin color and ethnicity.”
The brief asking the Court to accept the case, written by Advancing American Freedom, argues that the case gives the justices the ability to further clarify that the Equal Protection Clause protects individuals from discrimination rather than groups. In the wake of last term’s Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, accepting this case can also help lower courts as they address new challenges when schools are sued for engaging in new “race discrimination by proxy” admissions policies. Lastly, the Court must address the unconstitutionality of the Fairfax County School Board’s actions.
In the wake of the new admissions policy, Thomas Jefferson High School has also dropped to fifth in the U.S. News and World Report ranking of American high schools after spending three years as the magazine’s top-ranked institution.
“Moving from a merit-based system to racial-based system robs the American people and the world of the best-available talent to create innovation, goods and services,” said Project 21 Director of Membership Development Donna Jackson. “Kids should be taught that their performance and outcomes are determined by their own drive and ambition and not which box they check.”
“The Fairfax County School Board rejected the Equal Protection Clause in favor of group rights – neglecting to protect individuals equally under the law,” said Project 21 member Derryck Green. “The government should not be defending group rights above individual accomplishments. Group rights are one reason the Supreme Court ended race-based affirmative action that prioritized black students above higher-performing Asian-American and white students.”
Project 21 submitted its own amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in last term’s Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, and was co-amici on the brief urging the Court to take up that case. It has also participated in briefs in other major cases before the U.S. Supreme Court including the Fisher v. University of Texas and Shelby County v. Holder.
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