FCPS School Board Statement on Decision to Appeal Ruling on Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

FCPS School Board Statement on Decision to Appeal Ruling on Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

March 14, 2022

The Fairfax County School Board today filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit challenging the ruling of U.S. District Court Judge Claude M. Hilton, that would invalidate the race-neutral admissions process at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST). The School Board also plans to ask the appeals court to stay the ruling to allow it to complete the selection process for the incoming freshman class.

Judge Hilton’s ruling is highly damaging. Failing to challenge it would jeopardize race-neutral diversity efforts not just within Fairfax County Public Schools or at TJ, but also within public education more broadly.

The School Board  believes that Judge Hilton’s decision does not reflect extensive federal case law that supports race-neutral admissions, and is asking the federal appeals court to review the decision.

The School Board took on an examination of the TJ admissions  process following a state directive in June 2020 that required all Governor’s Schools to submit an equity report by October 1, 2020. The new admissions process, adopted in December 2020, was developed to create greater access and opportunity for students throughout the County. 

The intent of the school division was to design a process that removes systemic screening barriers that have historically impacted talented students from diverse backgrounds. Equity of access ensures that all applicants with the potential and aptitude - regardless of circumstance or background - have the opportunity to attend this Governor’s School.

Change for the right reason is always difficult. While there were struggles and challenges along the way, the admissions data for the Class of 2025 reflects our efforts to achieve greater access and opportunity throughout the county. 

Former U.S. Solicitor General Don Verrilli of Munger, Tolles & Olsen is filing the appeal pro bono. Verrilli was persuaded to take this case free of charge by two of the firm’s lawyers, Xiaonan April Hu, and Mica Moore, both TJ alumni who have been following the case closely.  Ginger Anders, of the Munger, Tolles firm and a former US Assistant Solicitor General is also part of the pro bono team. Board counsel Sona Rewari and Trevor Cox, former Virginia Solicitor General of Hunton Andrews and Kurth will  complete the appellate team.