IIn Virginia, the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology refuses admission to students based on their ethnicity.
The school changed its admissions protocols in late 2020 in an effort to diversify its student body, which had previously been more than 70% Asian American. Officials got rid of its traditional merit-based standards, including standardized testing requirements, and implemented a lottery instead that prioritized colleges least likely to send students to TJ. As a result, the number of black and Hispanic students in TJ’s incoming class has increased, while the number of Asian American students has fallen to its lowest share in years. Specifically, black students rose from 1% to 7%; Hispanics went from 3% to 11%; and Asian Americans fell from 73% to 54%.
Call it affirmative action, fair distribution, or whatever enlightened term you like, but it’s still just discrimination, plain and simple.
Several members of the Fairfax County School Board admitted as much in unearthed emails and text messages released by the Pacific Legal Foundation. In an October 2020 conversation, for example, school board member Abrar Omeish admitted that proposed changes to TJ’s admissions process would discriminate against Asian American applicants.
“I mean there was an anti-Asian sentiment underlying all of this, I hate to say it lol,” Omeish told fellow school board member Stella Pekarsky.
In a June 2020 email, TJ Principal Ann Bonitatibus admitted that the school’s goal in changing its admissions policy is to “better reflect the racial makeup” of the Fairfax community.
“Our 32 black students and 47 Hispanic students fill three classrooms. If our demographics truly represented FOPS, we would enroll 180 black students and 460 Hispanic students, filling nearly 22 classrooms. The most recent trend in TJ admissions, unfortunately, does not close the equity gap,” she said.
Another school board member, Karen Keys-Gamarra, agreed with Bonitatibus’ assessment at a school board meeting a few days later and argued that TJ’s increased representation of black students was only appropriate given “what happened to George Floyd. … We must recognize the unacceptable number of things such as the unacceptable number of African Americans who have been accepted into TJ.
These comments should eliminate any doubts about whether TJ’s merit-based lottery system is race-based. Its sole purpose is to increase the representation of specific races at the expense of others. They even admit it in writing. Would anyone really wonder if this policy is discriminatory if the tables were turned and school officials tried to reduce admission of black students in order to increase admission of Asian students? Of course not.
But for some reason, TJ school officials have convinced themselves that it is acceptable and even necessary to subject Asian American students to different standards, even if they are also part of a minority community. . When Democratic Sen. Chap Petersen pointed this out last year, Sen. Louise Lucas responded by demanding he provide a “better definition of minority.” His argument was simple: Discrimination against Asian Americans doesn’t count because they’re not the “right” minority.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court has the ability to strike down TJ’s unfair standards. Virginia and 15 other states filed an amicus brief with the High Court this week, arguing that policies such as TJ’s “would bless a no frills racial balance for its own good, which is patently unconstitutional” and ” hopelessly irreconcilable with the commandment of equal protection”. And Chief Justice John Roberts has already taken an interest in this one. This suggests the rest of the bench could get a chance to weigh in soon.
For the sake of the many students who have discovered that their applications are only as good as their skin color, the court must take up this case and rule against TJ. The only thing that matters in an application are the qualifications of the student. The more qualified must be accepted and the less qualified must be rejected. Race should have nothing to do with it, and it’s time for the Supreme Court to make that clear.
Kaylee McGhee White is the associate editor of Restoring America for the Washington Examiner and a visiting scholar at the Independent Women’s Forum.