(Also published at FairfaxTimes.com.)
At 10:20 a.m. on March 2, a staffer at another Fairfax County school – this time, America’s No. 1 high school, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology – sent students an email, specifically excluding Asian and white students while promoting a free college preparation program, arguing that the program is “designed to systematically mitigate the impact of barriers to access, opportunity, and attainment” for students from certain “populations.”
For critics, the new letter invokes a troubling “equity” directive pushed by the new school superintendent, Michelle Reid, to realize “equal outcomes for every student, without exception” and the vision of the previous superintendent, Scott Brabrand, to put equity at the “heart” of all school district work, even at the expense of equal opportunities and equality.
In the email, shared with the Fairfax County Times by a student whistleblower, Samantha Wolf, a college and career specialist in the Office of Student Services at TJ, as the school is known, told students to submit their applications for the College Partnership Program, writing, “The FCPS College Partnership Program is designed to systematically mitigate the impact of barriers to access, opportunity, and attainment; and supports students who are from populations that are historically underrepresented on college campuses.” She included four racial groups: “African American,” “American Indian,” “Alaskan Native” and “Hispanic.”
Omitted from the list were Asian and white students.
The letter mirrored the language of a similar letter sent to families at Cooper Middle School on March 1.
At TJ, where Asian students make up about 70 percent of the student body, many students believed they didn’t qualify for the program based on race, parents told the Fairfax County Times. Already, the Fairfax County school board and TJ officials are under fire for ramming through a new admissions policy in December 2020 that eliminated merit-based admissions testing to the school, illegally discriminating against Asian students, according to a ruling last year by Federal Judge Claude Hilton.
Then late last year, the school principal, Ann Bonitatibus, earned the ire of parents and students when it was discovered that school officials had withheld National Merit awards from students. Wolf works in the Office of Student Services that withheld the awards, in part because the director of student services, Brandon Kosatka, said that the principal and he didn’t want to “hurt” the feelings of students who didn’t get the awards. Most of the students impacted by the withholding of the award are Asian American students.
Much like with this allegedly discriminatory invitation to the college prep program, it was learned that the malfeasance wasn’t just at one school but across many schools and also neighboring school districts, which have drawn a lot of controversy for implementing divisive “equity” programs that end up treating students unequally and unfairly.
Critics say that other criteria for the college prep program are proxies for race, including “students who are the first in the family to attend college in the U.S.,” “students with disabilities,” “English language learners” and “economically disadvantaged students.”
Last week, Christine Lambrou Johnson, the civil rights chief in the Office of Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares sent a letter to the Cooper Middle School principal, Lisa Barrow, after the Fairfax County Times disclosed that parents received a March 1 email from the school, telling them that students qualified for the program based on racial terms, if they were Black or Hispanic. Johnson is a senior assistant attorney general in the Virginia Office of the Attorney General.
Johnson demanded that Barrow “cease and desist” in any illegal discrimination for entry into the program.
“It’s shocking that we continue to find such blatant examples of racial and ethnic discrimination in the Fairfax County Public School System,” Miyares said in a statement. “Every student should be able to apply for the College Partnership Program and have the same opportunities as their peers, regardless of race.”
“I demand that Cooper Middle School, its administrators, and anyone involved in this program stop this illegal discrimination immediately,” Miyares continued.
Fairfax County Public Schools officials issued an oddly worded “clarification” and “apologies” for the March 1 email, directing parents to the official website. Fairfax County Public Schools spokeswoman, Kathleen Miller, denied the program is racist and said it is “open to everyone/anyone.” On the school district’s official website, the program promotes students of all races, except Asian and white children, among its “typical” students.
The school district quickly added data last week that shows that Asian and white students were in the program over the past three years but the data, especially for white students, is less than the representation of the students by race in the school district.
In the letter, Johnson wrote, “It has come to the attention of this Office that Cooper Middle School is engaging in conduct in contravention of the Virginia Human Rights Act, Va. Code § 2.2-3900 er seg., Va. Code § 2.2-520 et seq., and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It appears that Cooper Middle School is soliciting and selecting applicants to the College Partnership Program based on race, color, and national origin.”
In her email to students, Wolf, the TJ staffer, noted the deadline for entry was March 10, just one day after the Virginia Attorney General put Fairfax County on notice to stop its discriminatory practice.
A former Wall Street Journal reporter, Asra Q. Nomani is the author of a new book, “Woke Army.” She is a senior fellow at Independent Women’s Network. She is reachable at [email protected] and @AsraNomani on Twitter.