Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and LatinoJustice PRLDEF Lead Legal Team in Battle Over Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology Admissions Policies

Civil Rights Groups File To Submit Amicus Brief on Behalf of TJ Alumni for Racial Justice and Others
For Immediate Release
Contact
Michelle Boykins 202-296-2300, ext. 0144 mboykins@advancingjustice-aajc.org

Washington, DC — Today, civil rights groups Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC (Advancing Justice-AAJC), NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), and LatinoJustice PRLDEF, together with law firm Arnold & Porter, filed a motion to submit an amicus brief in support of equitable access to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) in the case Coalition for TJ v. Fairfax County School Board.

“As a leading Asian American civil rights organization, we are filing an amicus brief in this case in support of policies that ensure equitable access to education for communities of color, a sentiment overwhelmingly supported by the Asian American community,” said Niyati Shah, Advancing Justice – AAJC’s Director of Litigation. “For too many students, the path to potential admission at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology has been littered with barriers and mired in a long history of inequity.”

The groups will serve as counsel for TJ Alumni for Racial Justice (TJARJ), NAKASEC VA, CASA VA, Virginia State Conference of the NAACP, and Hispanic Federation as amici curiae in support of new policies designed to promote access and reject policies that further systemic racism and favor students who come from more affluent backgrounds.   

“We must work together to ensure that all hardworking students – regardless of race or socioeconomic status – have a fair chance to get into celebrated schools like the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology,” said Michaele N. Turnage Young, Senior Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “LDF is proud to stand with proposed amici NAKASEC Virginia, Casa Virginia, the Virginia NAACP, Hispanic Federation, and TJ Alumni for Racial Justice in supporting schools that strive to remove barriers to equal educational opportunity. Schools working to advance equality should be commended, not targeted with cynical attempts to pit communities of color against each other. 

According to the brief, the student body at TJHSST is woefully lacking the diverse makeup of the students within the communities it serves. Currently, the student body of TJHSST is only 1.72% Black and 2.6% Latinx, with admissions of Black and Latinx students over the past seven years barely clearing 2 and 3 percent. And even within the Asian American community, there is dearth of diversity as English Language Learners and economically disadvantaged students are severely under-represented.

“It’s a travesty of justice that Latino and Black students, combined, constitute a meager 4.2% of TJHSST’s student population. This is the lowest enrollment percentage of any specialized high school that LatinoJustice has encountered since seeking to defend proposed admissions reforms to advance greater racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity in these elite publicly funded high schools. We are pleased that our amicus brief contextualizes the history of racial segregation and discrimination against Black and Latino students and exposes the inequities of a test-centric admissions plan” said Jose Perez, Deputy General Counsel, of LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

"Labeling the proposed educational reform efforts aimed at furthering racial and economic equity as “anti-Asian” misses the mark and trivializes the very real racial biases and structural racism that our communities face," said Sookyung Oh, Director of NAKASEC Virginia. "Research strongly and clearly demonstrates the benefits of diversity in education."

Advancing Justice – AAJC, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and LatinoJustice PRLDEF stand for racial equity in education and look forward to representing these groups who are encouraging progress to promote access and expand educational opportunities for all communities of color.

"Black and Latinx students have been shut out of TJ for a generation,” said TJARJ Board member Daniel Morales. “It's time to make room at the table for talented students of every race."

Arnold & Porter partner Kristen Olvera Riemenschneider and Associate Elizabeth Denning said: “As alumni of TJHSST, we are keenly aware of the benefits that a top-notch STEM education confer. It is important to remember that TJHSST is a public school. The opportunities it creates should be available to all children, not just those with economic or socially advantaged backgrounds.”