Press Release: NCSD and REEL Policy Clinic Issue Statement on SCOTUS Order in TJ Case

February 20, 2024


Washington, D.C. – February 20, 2024 – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court released an order denying a petition to take up the Coalition for TJ v. Fairfax County School Board specialized school admissions case. The decision comes after multiple deliberations following a petition for writ of certiorari filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of the parent group challenging Virginia’s top-ranked public high school’s recently-adopted process for student placement.

The National Coalition on School Diversity (NCSD) and Georgetown Law’s Racial Equity in Education Law and Policy Clinic (REEL Policy Clinic) commend the Supreme Court’s order given its implications for educational access, diversity, and equity. This decision to deny certiorari comes the same year Brown v. Board of Education turns 70, which at its core recognized that K-12 public education is about ensuring equitable access to high-quality education for all students.

“Diversity in our nation’s schools is vital if we are to function as a multiracial democracy,” said Janel George, associate professor of law and director of the REEL Policy Clinic. “TJ has taken action to provide more children with access to its high-quality program, which is aligned with the goal of public education and with magnet schools historically.”

Last May, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled to uphold the admissions policy for the selective-enrollment high school, finding that it had not discriminated against Asian American students as the plaintiffs alleged. One month later, the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action at Harvard University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, ruling that such admissions policies violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

In crafting its colorblind rationale for the college admissions decision, the Supreme Court majority ignored the well-documented continuing impacts of systemic inequality and racial segregation in our nation’s public schools. Not only do schools remain deeply segregated by race and class, but students of color are more likely to attend underfunded and high-poverty schools with less effective instruction and reduced access to advanced coursework, extracurricular activities, and standardized testing preparation.

Within two months of the Supreme Court’s decision, the writ of certiorari was filed, asking the Court to declare that TJ’s pro-diversity admissions policy – which is explicitly race-neutral – violates the Equal Protection Clause. The changes to TJ’s process for student placement included 1) elimination of a standardized test, 2) establishment of new eligibility criteria (the top 1.5% of students at each public middle school who meet minimum standards); and 3) incorporation of a “holistic review of…students whose applications demonstrate enhanced merit.”

These changes aimed to acknowledge and help address the diminished educational opportunities, often correlated with a student’s race and socioeconomic background, due to long-standing and persistent systemic inequality. Following the murder of George Floyd and racial reckoning of 2020, the changes to TJ’s admissions policy can be seen as an attempt to provide a fairer chance for all students to access what is consistently ranked among the top ten best public high schools in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.

While the plaintiffs alleged that the 2020 changes to TJ’s process for student placement were designed to reduce the proportion of Asian American students at the school, Asian American students still made up the majority of students admitted under the new policy. Of the students who received offers to attend TJ, 54.36% were Asian, 22.36% white, 11.27% Latino, and 7.9% Black. The first freshmen class included more low-income students, Black and Latino students, English-language learners, and girls than prior classes. Moreover, for the first time in over a decade, all 28 middle schools in Fairfax County sent students to TJ.

Although no formal explanation for the denial is given, Justice Alito wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Thomas, which focuses mostly on challenging the Fourth Circuit’s reasoning that there was insufficient “disparate impact” to violate the Equal Protection Clause.

“The fact that only two justices dissented from the denial of Cert is a good sign,” said Philip Tegeler, a legal advisor with NCSD. “It means that, at least for now, a significant majority of the Court is unwilling to overturn the 2007 precedent that local school districts have the power, and the tools, to promote school diversity without selecting students on the basis of their race.”

Given this reality, NCSD and the REEL Policy Clinic express appreciation for the Supreme Court’s denial of the appeal. We will continue to fight and strengthen our collective efforts to promote equal educational opportunity in our nation’s public schools and help ensure every young person has a fair shot at achieving their full potential.

For media inquiries, please contact: Jenna Tomasello (

Founded in 2009, the National Coalition on School Diversity (NCSD) is a cross-sector network of 50+ national civil rights organizations, university-based research centers, and state and local coalitions working to expand support for school integration. NCSD supports its members in designing, enacting, implementing, and uplifting PK-12 public school integration policies and practices so we may build cross-race/class relationships, share power and resources, and co-create new realities.

The Racial Equity in Education Law and Policy Clinic (REEL Policy Clinic) centers its work on the intersections of education law, racial equity, and legislative advocacy. Student attorneys explore the origins of racial inequities in education and the role of law in entrenching or eliminating them. This work includes addressing issues that disproportionately impact the educational experiences and outcomes of students of color, including discriminatory school discipline practices, school segregation, resource inequities, and more.


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