Equal opportunity to access education is foundational to our public schools’ mission and purpose. The Fourth Circuit decision recognizes the importance of protecting race-neutral admission policies that increase diversity, build a more equitable and inclusive school community, and remove barriers to fair educational opportunities at Thomas Jefferson HS.
This case concerns whether a public-school board may modify a school’s admissions requirements to remove arbitrary and unfair barriers and to ensure all eligible students have a meaningful chance at attending. Recognizing the importance of diversity and access, the Fairfax County School Board sought to address its own arbitrary barriers to admission at TJ. Following the new admissions plan, the Board eliminated three standardized tests that had seriously impaired the fairness of admissions and created a holistic evaluation system.
As the US populations and the public-school student body become increasingly diverse, more children attend increasingly segregated schools. The consequence for low-income, Black, and Brown students and children with disabilities are particularly harmful. Racially segregated schools are increasingly unequal, and Black and Brown students are more likely to be concentrated in schools with fewer resources and fewer opportunities.
Segregation impacts all students and cheats them of the opportunities to prepare to live in a diverse society. Students who attend segregated schools continue to feel socially distant from other groups as young adults and are deprived of opportunities for developing relationships across cultural groups. They are more likely to prefer same race neighborhoods, perpetuating the cycle of segregation.
To break the cycle, school systems must have the flexibility to address the twin challenges of growing diversity and segregation. School districts need holistic policies which consider the entire student, including race and ethnicity. The Fourth Circuit’s decision affirms that school communities can craft race-neutral policies and practices that provide fair educational opportunities and create more equitable school.
For more information:
- The Fourth Circuit’s decision in Coalition for TJ v. Fairfax County School Board
- Amicus brief on behalf of the National Coalition on School Diversity, Poverty & Race Research Action Council, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Virginia, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.by Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights