Photo Credit: Antonio Martin
Students, Parents Challenge TJ Admissions Changes
Coalition for TJ | Press Release
Seventeen parents filed a lawsuit against the Fairfax County School Board and Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand for illegally changing the admissions process at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.
TJ, as the school is known, is the nation’s top-ranked public high school, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1985, the STEM-focused Governor’s School has long maintained rigorous, merit-based, race-blind admissions standards that include the administering of a set of standardized tests. In an October 6 work session, however, the Fairfax County School Board voted to abolish the school’s admissions tests, and the superintendent abruptly eliminated the tests from this year’s admissions process.
The lawsuit alleges that the school board and superintendent violated state laws and regulations requiring that a “nationally norm-referenced aptitude test” be used as part of the TJ admissions process to identify gifted learners with an aptitude for STEM. As a Governor’s School, TJ provides services to gifted students, or advanced academic learners, and receives special funding from the Commonwealth for this purpose.
Today, the Coalition for TJ held a press conference outside the Fairfax County Courthouse, announcing that the 17 parents had filed a lawsuit against school officials. “The basis for the complaint against Fairfax County School Board and Scott Brabrand is relatively simple,” Coalition for TJ co-founder Glenn Miller said at the news conference. “Virginia law, which is the superior law and controls the actions of Fairfax County and its school board, contains specific requirements that must be followed in order to admit students to TJ. Fairfax County and its school board violated those laws. As such, the Fairfax County School Board and the superintendent acted beyond their authority and acted arbitrarily and capriciously.”
The abolition of TJ’s standardized admissions tests will invariably reduce the number of Asian students at the school. The lawsuit’s 17 plaintiffs are families of current middle schoolers who are disadvantaged by the admissions changes. Plaintiff James Pan, father of a gifted middle schooler, spoke at today’s press conference. “FCPS is using the pretext of banning the test for their goal of reducing Asians at TJ,” Pan said. “The government is using a process that is plain old bigotry.”
Plaintiff and middle school parent Srinivas Akella said that he chose to live in Fairfax County for its program for gifted students and for TJ, in particular. “The school board and FCPS arbitrarily made changes to the admissions process in violation of state law,” Akella said today. “I have faith in our judiciary, and I am petitioning them as a last avenue since there was no other recourse left for me to pursue.”
Following the plaintiffs’ remarks at today’s press conference, Coalition for TJ co-founder Asra Nomani spoke of the opportunities that TJ has afforded generations of immigrants in Fairfax County. “My father came here for the American Dream. My son pursued it here in this country and is now a student at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology,” Nomani said. “We should not allow anyone — including the Fairfax County School Board and Superintendent Scott Brabrand — to stand in the way of justice. We are all here for the justice that America provides, and I applaud these courageous families.”