A group representing Asian Americans who say they were unfairly denied admission to Harvard is arguing the Ivy League School discriminates against Asian Americans. The group, called Students for Fair Admissions, filed documents Friday in a federal court in Boston, outlining its argument.

The lawsuit claims Harvard holds Asian-American applicants to higher academic standards than students of other races and ethnicities and broadly rates them lower on intangible criteria like courage, kindness and likeability.

It cites Harvard's own 2013 internal review, which found that the admissions process did, in fact, have a negative impact on Asian-American applicants. The group says Harvard’s leadership buried that report.

In a statement, Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions, said the documents expose Harvard’s discrimination against Asian-American applicants.

“This filing definitively proves that Harvard engages in racial balancing, uses race as far more than a ‘plus’ factor, and has no interest in exploring race-neutral alternatives,” Blum said. “We believe that the rest of the evidence will be released in the next few weeks, and it will further confirm that Harvard is in deliberate violation of the Civil Rights Act.”

Blum's group believes that "racial classifications and preferences in college admissions are unfair, unnecessary, and unconstitutional."

Harvard defends itself by pointing out that Asian-American students account for nearly 23 percent of all admitted students and that the rate of admissions for Asian-American students has grown by nearly 30 percent over the past decade.

Harvard said the lawsuit paints a dangerously inaccurate picture of the university’s admissions process, omitting critical factors like personal essays and teacher recommendations.

“This lawsuit is the continuation of a series of failed legal challenges to the consideration of race in higher education admissions orchestrated by Mr. Blum,” said Harvard spokeswoman Anna Cowenhoven. “Harvard will continue to vigorously defend our right, and that of other colleges and universities nationwide, to seek the educational benefits that come from a class that is diverse on multiple dimensions, from its capacity for academic excellence to its ability to help create a campus community that gives every student the opportunity to learn from peers with a wide variety of academic interests, perspectives, and talents.”

Economist Susan Dynarsky, an expert on education policy at at the University of Michigan, points out that Harvard accepts only about 5 percent of applicants.

"It could fill its freshman class many times over with people who have perfect GPAs and perfect scores, so by necessity they use other characteristics that people put into their applications to weigh people and to choose a class," Dynarsky said, adding that Harvard's 2013 internal review is not new evidence presented by the group.

"I see it basically as a PR move in the case, which is part of the legal process," Dynarsky said.

The Supreme Court, in a 1978 decision, held up Harvard's process as a model for race-conscious admissions. That's because the school considers a range of factors in making decisions.

Civil rights activists see the lawsuit as a backdoor attack on race-conscious admissions, or affirmative action, which the Supreme Court has allowed if carefully done.

The case is expected to go to trial in October and could wind up before the Supreme Court.

This article has been updated.