In June, the statistics about the incoming class became public, and the percentage of black students was so low that the official breakdown of the school’s class statistics only announced it as a series of star codes. Demands for racial justice are growing louder as protests continue across the country against the assassination of George Floyd.
In an email to the TJ community, school principal Ann Bonitatibus wrote that “each of us has a responsibility to speak out and take action against racism” and that the TJ community “does not reflect ethnicity.” In public schools in Fairfax County.
Over the next few months, the Fairfax County School Board considered various changes in the enrollment process in a series of meetings calling for a coalition urgency and lack of transparency for TJ – and the judge finally agreed to this argument. In October, the board voted to remove the standardized test requirement, which immediately received parental objections, many of whom paid substantial sums for exam preparation courses, and alumni who thought it would tarnish the school’s reputation as a center of rigorous academic authority.
In December, the board approved a new enrollment process that guarantees students eligibility at every middle school in the school system, adding four “experiential factors” such as whether students are economically disadvantaged or in the process of learning English.
The school argued in court that factors that it considers to include many things other than race – following changes, the percentage of economically disadvantaged students has grown from less than 1 percent to a quarter of the incoming class. But Judge Hilton, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, argued that the emails and messages and the racial data discussed by the team members “make it clear that diversity is primarily about racial segregation.”
He wrote that the school board could have achieved this through other measures such as expanding TJ’s student numbers or offering free exam preparation courses. But he wrote that the school’s policy was to “increase the mix of blacks and Hispanics” and “necessarily reduce the representation of Asian Americans.”
Julia McCaskill, who has three daughters from Fairfax County schools – two of whom are in TJ -, had parents gather outside the school following Judge Hilton’s ruling and held a small celebration despite the cold.
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