A review of recently denied U.S. Supreme Court cases
Cases range from the use of school facilities by transgender students to reviews of admissions practices
supreme court

The United States Supreme Court hears a limited number of cases every year and only a handful of those cases are usually related to education matters. Many cases are submitted to the court in the hopes that it will grant “certiorari,” or review, but most are denied the chance to argue their case and do not receive any consideration from the Court. Below is a summary of four education cases that were recently submitted to the Court for consideration.

Metropolitan School District of Martinsville v. A.C.
The petitioner in this case challenged an Indiana school district’s policy that prohibited a male transgender student from using the boys’ restroom at school. In the early stages of the case, the lower court and the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of the student and granted a preliminary injunction requiring the school district to allow the student to access the boys’ restroom. The school district decided to appeal the Seventh Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court, asking the Court to consider, “Whether Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 or the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment dictate a single national policy that prohibits local schools from maintaining separate bathrooms based on students’ biological sex.”

In its petition, the school district argued that there is a split amongst the circuit courts on how issues related to transgender students are decided. According to the school district, national guidance is needed for schools to determine if biological sex or gender identity should be the basis for separation of students in different contexts such as sports and facilities use. The Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits have all issued opinions that allow for gender identity to be used, whereas the Eleventh Circuit once held that biological sex can be used to maintain separate bathrooms. The student’s attorney characterized this difference in opinions among the circuits not as a split, but instead as a “temporary disagreement about the meaning of a Department of Education regulation that is in the process of being amended.”

Ultimately, the Court denied certiorari without comment or a recorded dissent, meaning there was no rationale given for why the case will not be heard. As a result of the denial of certiorari, the preliminary injunction from the Seventh Circuit stands.

S.B. v. Jefferson Parish School Board
This case involved multiple instances in which a nonverbal autistic student was slapped on the wrist by school employees. The parent of the student sued the school board, challenging the actions by the school employees as unconstitutional. The lower courts dismissed the case based on a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals precedent that prohibits this type of claim so long as there is adequate remedy provided by the state for corporal punishment. On appeal to the Fifth Circuit, the student’s attorney argued that the circuit courts are split on this issue and the Fifth Circuit should align with the nine other appeal courts that allow corporal punishment claims to be made under the Constitution. The Fifth Circuit did not agree, and the student filed a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court.

The student’s petition to the Court sought “the Court’s resolution of the legal standards, but not a resolution of the case” and asked if claims challenging corporal punishment are permissible under the Constitution. The petition also asked the Court to provide a clear standard for courts to use if these cases are in fact permissible. The Court did not take the case and made no comment or recorded dissent leaving the Fifth Circuit’s dismissal in place and precedent as it stands (including that California schools are not exempt from claims for corporal punishment).

Students for Fair Admissions v. United States Military Academy West Point
In a new case brought by the Students for Fair Admission (SFFA), an organization that challenged the use of affirmative action and won last year, the Court considered a request for an injunction to temporarily prohibit the United States Military Academy West Point from considering race in admissions. This is the first step in SFFA’s challenge to West Point’s overall admissions practice and was denied by the lower courts. In early February, the Supreme Court did the same. The case will now continue through the legal process and will likely return to the Supreme Court for consideration of the merits.
TJ v. Fairfax County School Board

Similar to the SFFA case, this case challenges an admission process used in a school setting. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology is a highly rated high school in Virginia that changed its admission process in 2020 in the hopes of being more inclusive and to encourage diversity. To achieve this, the previously used entrance exam and teacher recommendations were no longer required, and the school added consideration of “experience factors,” which included economic disadvantage and status as an English learner to its admissions criteria.

Parents of students seeking admission sued the school in response to these changes arguing that the changes specifically aimed to reduce the number of Asian American students admitted to the school. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of the school district and the parents filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court. The Court “relisted” the case several times and on Feb. 20, 2024, denied cert, leaving the Fourth Circuit’s decision in place.