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Attorney General Bonta Joins Multistate Coalition in Defense of School Policy to Reduce Barriers to Education for Underrepresented Student Groups

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced joining a coalition of 16 attorneys general in an amicus brief in support of a Virginia School Board’s race-neutral admissions policy aimed at reducing barriers to a quality education for underrepresented student groups. In the amicus brief in TJ v. Fairfax County School Board, the coalition urges the appellate court to overturn the district court's ruling — which threatens to seriously impair the ability of states to implement effective, inclusive policies for all individuals, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or background — and highlights the states' interest in eradicating discrimination in all its forms.

“Every child, no matter their background, deserves equal access to a quality education,” said Attorney General Bonta. “It is essential that we break down barriers that stand in the way. And, also recognize that centuries of structural racism and discrimination have cast a shadow on our education system and continue to impede access for marginalized communities — particularly Black and Latino students. We must support commonsense policies that foster greater diversity and, wherever we see them, address these historical wrongs. We respectfully ask the appellate court to reinforce that which we know to be true: all children should have access to a quality education.”

The school in question in the case, Jefferson High, is consistently ranked as one of the best public high schools in the nation. However, in 2020, only 2% of Black Students and 3% of Latino students from the surrounding middle schools were admitted. In response to the lack of equitable access to Jefferson High, the school board instituted a race-neutral admissions policy that aimed to remove barriers that had excluded certain student communities by, among other things, increasing outreach into underrepresented middle schools, eliminating the application fee, and granting admission to the top 1.5% of eligible eighth graders from each middle school served by the school board. As a result of the policy, the school’s Black, Latino, and economically disadvantaged student populations increased dramatically. However, at the district court level, the court held that the school board’s race-neutral efforts to eliminate some of the geographic, financial, and other obstacles that limited access to economically disadvantaged and minority students at the elite high school were unlawful. In the amicus brief, the coalition argues that if the ruling remains in place, it threatens to undermine a broad range of race-neutral efforts aimed at tackling discrimination and increasing diversity across the nation.

In filing the amicus brief, Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

A copy of the amicus brief is available here.