Racist Virginia school board and principal called out

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In a tremendous victory for parents, hard-working students and those who want to end discrimination in our schools, a federal judge has thrown about the racist admissions policy of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a prestigious magnetic public school in Fairfax County, Virginia.

On February 25, Federal District Court Judge Claude Hilton granted summary judgment to the Coalition For TJ, a coalition of Asian American parents with children who had applied for admission to Thomas Jefferson High School or were planning to attend. make. They were represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation.

Parents challenged school change admissions policy implemented by the elected members of the Fairfax County School Board in 2020. Hilton concluded that the change was made for a clearly racist purpose:

FCSB (Fairfax County School Board) board members and high-level players have made no secret of their desire for TJ (Thomas Jefferson High School) to represent the racial demographics of Fairfax County or Northern Virginia. in its entirety.

Despite their efforts to ensure “holistic” admissions, Hilton found the policy to be “racial balancing for its own good” and, therefore, “clearly unconstitutional.”

As internal emails and other evidence showed, the 12-member school board was unhappy that so many Asian American students and so few black and Hispanic students were accepted into the school. The same was true of Thomas Jefferson’s headmistress, Ann Bonitatibus, who seemed more concerned with the race of her students than with their individual character or upbringing.

During the 2020-21 school year, before the policy change, the racial makeup of the student body was 71.9% Asian American, 18.34% White, 3.05% Hispanic, and 1.77% Black. Defendants expressed anger that Thomas Jefferson’s Hispanic and Black racial makeup does not reflect that of Fairfax County, which is 19.8% Asian American, 36.8% White, 27.1% Hispanic and 10% Black .

With the implementation of the new admissions policy, which resulted in the admission of 64 more students than in previous classes, the percentage of Asian American students in the class of 2025 fell further to only 54%.

The change in admissions policy was prompted, in part, by the death of George Floyd in May 2020. Bonitatibus emailed a week after Floyd’s death to the Thomas Jefferson community about “black citizens threatened with death and continued injustice” and complaining that the high school “did not reflect the racial makeup” in the Fairfax County school system.

Other board members expressed similar sentiments, with one saying she was “angry and disappointed” with the old admissions policy and saying they needed to “tackle the underbelly.” -representation of black and Hispanic students”. Although white students are also “underrepresented” at the school, this apparently did not concern the board members.

But Hilton found that “communications from board members show a consensus that they believe TJ’s racial makeup was problematic” and they “undertook to increase and decrease the representation of certain groups.” races at TJ”.

The school’s original and rigorous admissions policy explains why it is regularly note as one of the best secondary schools in the country. Students from five different school districts can apply. But in addition to requiring applicants to have a minimum Base 3.0 GPA, the school also required students to pass three standardized tests: the Quant-Q, ACT Aspire Reading, and ACT Aspire Science tests.

Students who achieved certain minimum scores became semi-finalists for another exam that assessed their GPA, test scores, teacher recommendations, answers to three writing prompts, and a problem-solving essay.

The daughter of one of the authors went through this difficult process and graduated from Thomas Jefferson in 2012.

Keep in mind that in the case against the school board, no evidence was produced that the pre-existing admissions policy, including the battery of tests administered to applicants, was discriminatory. It is simply that this objective process did not produce the racial proportions intended by the school board and the school principal.

In place, table eliminated standardized testing entirely, got rid of the multi-step review process, and implemented “holistic” (i.e. subjective) assessment that included “experience factors” such as “(a) attendance at a college deemed historically underrepresented at TJ; (b) eligibility for free and discounted meals; (c) English learner status; and (d) special education student status.

the black board also guaranteed places for 1.5% of eighth graders in each public college, creating a pool for the remaining unassigned places.

Hilton concluded there was “no dispute” that the board was “racially motivated” and “acted with discriminatory intent” when it changed the admissions policy. It has implemented, according to Hilton, a policy that “does not treat all TJ applicants equally”, where Asian American students are “disproportionately deprived of an equal playing field”.

Additionally, the board bypassed the usual policy change process to dampen public opposition, doing everything possible to prevent stakeholder input — something Hilton himself noted. He found that “the process was rushed, not transparent, and more concerned with just doing something to shift the racial balance at TJ than engaging the public”.

The process suggests – as one board member put it in an email – that the board was moving “quickly” because it was “currently at reputational/political risk,” meaning that “the time is more propitious”.

Hilton contrasted the fact that the school board held “full public meetings” about renaming two schools named after Confederate generals with the fact that “the public hasn’t even seen the proposed plan that the council actually passed for TJ admissions up to 30 minutes before the final meeting.”

He said the council could not “transform racial balancing” – discriminatory conduct prohibited by the Constitution – by “simply renaming it ‘racial diversity’.” And he didn’t even consider alternatives “like further increasing the size of TJ or providing free test prep…before the Board defaulted to a system that treats applicants unequally in hopes of creating a particular racial outcome.

What is clear from this decision and the evidence that has been presented is that members of the Fairfax County School Board, High School Principal Thomas Jefferson and many other members of the school system have not hesitated to implement a racially discriminatory admissions procedure. policy to implement a racial quota system that would allocate places in the incoming class based not on the qualifications, degrees and hard work of these students, but on their skin color.

Everyone should be ashamed of themselves for betraying the public trust and engaging in such flagrant conduct.

Originally published in The daily signal.

Hans von Spakovsky is a senior legal officer at The Heritage Foundation, former commissioner of the Federal Election Commission and former attorney to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the US Department of Justice. He is a board member of the Public Interest Legal Foundation.

Sarah Parshall Perry is a legal scholar at the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation.

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