On the February 21 episode of the Bloomberg Law podcast, Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Audrey Anderson discussed the Supreme Court’s decision to reject an appeal regarding a Virginia public high school’s use of geographic and socio-economic factors to increase diversity in the student body.

Hosting the podcast was June Grasso, an Emmy-Award winning journalist, who anchors the “Bloomberg Law” and “Bloomberg Best” daily on Bloomberg Radio. In the podcast, Audrey and June explored the legal and policy implications of the Virginia high school’s admissions policies. Audrey explained that the policy change was implemented to address the need for more diversity in the student body that resulted from the previous entrance exam process. The policy change eliminated the entrance exam and allocated seats by middle school, resulting in a more diverse student body in terms of race, socioeconomic status, and geography.

However, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito took issue with the policy’s disproportionate impact on Asian-Americans, who received over 70% of the seats under the prior race-neutral policy, but only 54% of the offers to attend the high school under the board’s revised race-neutral policy. He argued that this was evidence of racial discrimination despite the school board’s claim that the policy was race-neutral and aimed at achieving greater diversity.

“The biggest question, and the thing that Justice Alito took issue with, is one of the things that you look at when you’re trying to figure out whether a policy that is racially neutral on its face,” Audrey explained. “Does it nonetheless violate the equal protection clause because it’s racially discriminatory? One of the things you look at is: ‘did the policy have a disproportionate impact on one race rather than another?’ Because if it did, that’s one piece of evidence that would show that there might have been racially discriminatory intent. You can’t show that just based on that, but that’s one important piece of evidence you have to look at.”

Audrey countered that the policy was race-blind and that the school board had no intention of hurting any race. She also pointed out that the policy was implemented to address the lack of diversity in the student body, which was a legitimate policy goal. Audrey and June also discussed the legal and policy implications of the case, including the questions left open by last year’s Harvard and North Carolina decisions. The pair covered the impact of affirmative action groups’ legal challenges and lawsuits, which have prompted institutions to take a closer look at their programs and ensure that they are open to everyone regardless of their race.

To listen to the full episode, “Bloomberg Law: School Diversity Efforts & Mega Merger Mania,” please click here.