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Judge overturns elite Virginia high school’s admissions rules

In June, statistics on the incoming class were released, and the percentage of black students admitted was so small that the school’s official class demographics breakdown showed only a series of asterisks. This came as protests raged across the country over the murder of George Floyd and calls for racial justice grew louder.

In an email to the TJ community, Principal Ann Bonitatibus wrote that “each of us has a responsibility to our community to speak out and take action to counter racism,” adding that the TJ community “did not reflect racial makeup”. in Fairfax County public schools.

Over the next few months, in a series of sessions, the Fairfax County School Board considered a number of changes to the admissions process that the Coalition for TJ said were rushed and lacking transparency — an argument the judge ultimately agreed. In October, the board voted to abolish the standardized testing requirements, prompting objections from parents, many of whom had paid substantial sums for test preparation courses, and alumni, who thought it would tarnish the school’s reputation as a rigorous academic powerhouse.

In December, the board approved the new admissions process, which not only guarantees the admission of students to any middle school in the school system, but also adds four “experience factors” such as: B. whether students are economically disadvantaged or are currently learning English.

The school argued in court that the factors it wanted to address included many things other than race — after the changes, for example, the percentage of economically disadvantaged students rose from less than 1 percent to over a quarter of the new class. But Justice Hilton, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, was unconvinced, arguing that internal emails and messages, and the racial data consulted by board members “make it clear that diversity means racial diversity first and foremost.”

The school board could have accomplished this through other measures, such as increasing TJ’s student body or offering free test prep classes, he wrote. But the policy the school has developed to “increase black and Hispanic enrollment,” he wrote, “would necessarily decrease representation of Asian Americans.”

Julia McCaskill, who has three daughters in Fairfax County schools — two of them in TJ — said the parents gathered outside the school after Judge Hilton’s ruling and held a small celebration despite the cold.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/us/thomas-jefferson-school-admissions.html Judge overturns elite Virginia high school’s admissions rules

Ethan Gach

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