April 16, 2024

Munger, Tolles & Olson’s Xiaonan April Hu Interviewed by The Washington Post on the Firm’s Historic Supreme Court Victory in the Fight for Diversity in Schools

Munger, Tolles & Olson litigation associate Xiaonan April Hu was interviewed by The Washington Post about the firm’s role in defending a race-neutral, race-blind admissions policy implemented at her alma mater, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, Virginia—a high-profile matter that many saw as an effort to dismantle non-race-based efforts to improve diversity.

MTO achieved a historic win in February 2024 when the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the race-neutral admissions policies implemented by the Fairfax County School Board at Thomas Jefferson High School. In 2020, the School Board decided to institute admission policies that admitted the top students from each middle school around the region, thereby addressing certain longstanding socioeconomic and racial disparities. However, a group of parents sued, arguing that the policies were intentionally adopted to discriminate against Asian Americans. A district court initially blocked the policies, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overturned the ruling as the result of an MTO-led challenge and concluded that there was no evidence the policy was adopted to discriminate against Asian Americans. The parents’ group then filed a request for certiorari, which was rejected in February 2024 by the Supreme Court. The February ruling confirmed the legality of race-neutral actions that help increase diversity in schools, including racial diversity.

In the article, Ms. Hu shared her unique perspective as not only a lawyer working on the case, but also as a Thomas Jefferson alum and Asian American. While the ruling is a victory for diversity advocates, Ms. Hu acknowledged that the fight for diversity in schools is far from over and that the issue has taken on increased significance in light of the Supreme Court’s 2023 decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard to curtail affirmative action in college admissions.

As the article points out, Ms. Hu specializes in antitrust law. But recently, she has also focused her work on advising clients like corporations and nonprofits on how they can continue offering programs that support diversity while complying with the law following the Supreme Court’s decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. She said it’s important that organizations know that there is still space for these kinds of important diversity efforts.

“I worry constantly that people will find themselves in positions of overcorrecting and getting rid of initiatives that they don’t need to get rid of,” Ms. Hu told The Washington Post. “I think it would really be a shame if we lost programs like that, if we lost the ability to think thoughtfully about how we ensure a better, more equal society.”

Read the full Washington Post article. (Subscription may be required)