Coalition files lawsuit against Fairfax County Public schools for reduced enrollment of Asian American students

Virginia

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WDVM) — Parents, community members and student alumni of Thomas Jefferson high school along with the Pacific Legal Foundation are highlighting racial injustice in the school’s admissions process.

A call for change took place outside of the Alexandra Courthouse by coalition members to raise awareness of Fairfax County Public Schools reducing the number of Asian American students accepted.

Attorney Erin Wilcox said, “admissions to TJ has been race-blind. As a result, the student body of TJ has hovered at approximately 70% of Asian American students.”

Wilcox said recently FCPS officials believe the number of Asian American students is too high. She said last fall steps were made to overhaul the admissions process.”

Chen Haning, TJ Parent said, “As a parent of 3 daughters, I don’t want them to be judged only as Asian American. I want them to be judged as Americans like everyone else.”

Last year members wrote a letter to FPCS and the Superintendent expressing concerns and FCPS measure of merit lottery plan.

Julia Mccaskill, TJ Parent said, “Dr. Brabrand claimed the new admission process would increase the number of historically underrepresented minority students, however, data analysis show that the actual result will be that the number of Asian American students will be cut in nearly half without significant improvement for the underrepresented minority students.”

FCPS Public Information Officer Lucy Caldwell shared a statement on behalf of FCPS:

“Today, a new lawsuit was filed against the Fairfax County School Board and FCPS superintendent in the federal district court in Alexandria. The lawsuit alleges race discrimination against Asian American students by the School Board and superintendent in changing the TJ admissions process, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.

Fairfax County Public Schools and the Fairfax County School Board remain committed to ensuring that all FCPS students have access and opportunities to reach their fullest potential. It is in that vein that the Board fervently supported removing the historical barriers and inequities faced by students from culturally and ethnically diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, while still ensuring that TJ maintains its high academic standards.”

Background on FCPS School board actions on this issue:

  • In October 2020, the School Board voted to eliminate the standardized admission test for TJ and the $100 application fee. They also voted to expand the freshman class to 550. 
  • The new admissions criteria, which will be used to select the class of 2025, is based on a holistic review and is aimed at improving the school’s diversity and access. The changes to the current process include the following:
    • Increase the capacity of each admitting class from 480 to 550.
    • Elimination of the Quant-Q, ACT Aspire Reading and Science tests.
    • Elimination of the application fee.
    • Elimination of the teacher recommendations.
    • The top 1.5% of eighth-grade students at each public middle school who meet the minimum evaluation criteria (GPA, student portrait sheet, problem-solving essay, and experience factors: including students who are economically disadvantaged, English language learners, or special education students) will be offered admission. Additionally, the remaining unfilled seats are available to all applicants to receive an offer of admissions based on the strongest evaluated applications. 
  • The process continues to be race-neutral and merit-based.
  • All student applications will go through the holistic review process.

As a Governor’s school, we value diversity and believe that it contributes to the richness of the education at TJHSST.

  • Recap of the initial lawsuit: Nov. 2020, parents of 17 middle school students filed a lawsuit to overturn the School Board’s decision to eliminate the standardized admission test for TJ and the $100 application fee.
  • On February 2, a Fairfax Circuit Court judge denied the parents’ request to require mandatory standardized testing in the admissions process.
  • Fairfax Circuit Court Judge John M. Tran found no legal requirement to use standardized tests, adding that, “The debate over standardized testing belongs to educational professionals.”

Lucy H. Caldwell

Parents say they hope to the admissions process be equitable to all students.

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