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Education Dept. Investigating Discrimination Complaints Against FCPS

Complaint against school system alleges Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology admissions policy violates Civil Rights Act of 1964

FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA -- Two months after local advocacy groups filed a discrimination complaint against Fairfax County Public Schools, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights launched a formal investigation into the claims Wednesday.

On July 23, the Fairfax County branch of the NAACP and the advocacy group Coalition of the Silence submitted a formal complaint alleging FCPS is perpetuating discrimination against black, Latino and disabled students through the admission process for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. 

"Our hope is that this investigation will shine a bright enough spotlight on these issues to solve it not just for students in Fairfax County but for students across the nation," Tina Hone, a former school board member and founder of COTS, said in a statement. 

The complaint asserts FCPS has committed "clear violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

FCPS Spokesman John Torre said in an email to Patch while it's not the system's practice to comment on pending litigation, "we intend to fully cooperate" with the Office of Civil Right's investigation.

While black and Hispanic students make up about 10 percent and 22 percent of the FCPS student body, respectively, they make up 1.5 percent and 2.7 percent of the TJHSST student body, the complaint says.

Sixty-four percent of students admitted to TJHSST attend middle schools with Level 4 Advanced Academic Middle School Centers. Most of the centers have limited diversity, carrying minority populations that don't reflect the county's demographic makeup, the complaint says.

"In essence, Fairfax County operates a separate and unequal 'sub' school system within its overarching taxpayer-funded, public school system," the complaint reads. "That separate and unequal subsystem is comprised of a network of level 4 advanced academic centers where Black and Latino students are grossly underrepresented."

At a July 19 work session, Fairfax County's school board discussed both the lack of diversity and the declining math scores at the Governor's School for science and technology in recent years, and charged FCPS staff to begin researching how to improve in both areas.

This week, staff returned to a board work session with four recommendations: maintain the admissions weighting system; increase the pipeline of students who apply by implementing Advanced Academics Program Recommendations from the AAP center at every middle school and also from the elementary-level center in each pyramid; re-evaluate math instruction and curriculum across the system; and require those students in this year's admissions process to complete the student information sheet in a "controlled setting."  

The board has not made any formal votes on those recommendations, but at the work session decided to keep the current weighting system, at least temporarily and follow the recommendations for the student information sheet, Torre said.

The board asked Superintendent Jack Dale to return a more detailed plan on  AAP centers -- and how to assess math issues -- by December, Torre said.

The school system will be required to cooperate with OCR or risk losing federal funding.

This article has been updated with board recommendations.

For more on TJ:

Fairfax School Board Explores Changes to Thomas Jefferson Admissions

Which Middle School Sends the Most Students to TJHSST?

FCPS Releases Admission Statistics for Thomas Jefferson High's Class of 2016

Q&A with Thomas Jefferson High School Admissions Director Tanisha Holland

Thomas Jefferson High School Application Process: Lengthy and Complex

Thomas Jefferson High School Admissions Increasingly Selective

Justine van Engen September 28, 2012 at 09:08 PM
As a parent who very recently received an email granting me permission to register my child for TJ, a privilege which allows me to pay the $90 application fee, I am wondering if there are attendant class issues affect the demographics of the student body. There are a number of families for whom acceptance into this school merits the expenditure of resources on TJ Prep Classes and whose children received tutoring st considerable cost in order to do well in the accelerated math classes. Whether or not a public school for advanced students should make the effort to "adjust" the demographics of its students population by granting certain minority students the opportunity to attend becomes a philosophical matter when one considers that the bias toward more affluent families supersedes race, creed, color or ethnicity.
Jack Halterman September 28, 2012 at 10:24 PM
If I have one job opening and 100 applicants I will test them all and accept the best applicant. I don't care whether he/she is black, white, purple or has pink polka dots, the most qualified person gets the job. If you can pass the entry requirements for the school then go to that school. trying to make things demographically equal is just going destroy the entire system.
Jack Halterman September 28, 2012 at 10:29 PM
I agree; Perhaps if those who are editing these stories were properly educated they would proof read their work so these kinds of blunders would be caught and fixed before they are posted
Jeannette Wiley September 29, 2012 at 12:06 AM
It does not meet the liberals goal of dumbing down the students. Writer, Kathy Keith is right, give them a tough test with a high cutoff and maintain the standards. If the blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented then they need to start preparing early to succeed.
consuela jackson September 29, 2012 at 02:07 AM
so...if kids are diverted at a very early stage in their academic careers by largely subjective criteria to programs that are gate ways to better schools and programs that are gateways to mediocre schools this is OK with you? wanting all kids to have a fair shot is a liberal idea? so kids should be divided into groups to see who will actually be taught anything and who will actually be taught that they are not worth anything? Jeannette? are you a mother? this is OK for you?
JAK September 29, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Affirmative action is a joke that accomplishes exactly what it purports to work against: Discrimination. If you cannot make the cut, then tough. One of my most successful friends is a black lady from inner-city Anacostia, and she came from a neighborhood where I could literally hear gunshots in the background on multiple occasions while talking to her on the phone. The one thing she was adament about regarding her education, is that she didn't want to be accepted based upon racial affirmative action, rather she wanted to be accepted based upon the same qualifications as anyone else. Nowadays this woman is a highly successful individual going towards a career in federal-level forensics science. You want to talk about real discrimination worthy of an investigation? Then go ahead and look into colleges/universities that openly defy federal law regarding 504 status.
Amelie Krikorian September 29, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Can white people complain because there are more Asians at TJ than whites? I mean, obviously there is a bias there, right? Because these Asians -- who are largely recent immigrants coming from a country whose language and culture bear little to no resemblance to ours -- are somehow getting into TJ when locally born and raised blacks and Hispanics, whose language and culture both resemble ours, are not... I mean, there has to be prejudice there, right? I am guessing that the people who created the national COGAT and Naglieri tests that are used to screen for Level IV services must be Asian, that's why there are so many Asians at TJ. It can't possibly be that Asian kids overall tend to work really hard and earn their way in. Claiming that certain subgroups are being excluded from access to Level IV services is pretty silly when there are school based Level IV services in so many schools and local GT centers as well -- and minorities, even those who have learned English as a Second Language, are NOT being excluded. Have any of you considered how silly the whole minority definition actually is? Why are people from India and the Middle East classified as white? Did you know that Armenians were offered the option of being classed as a minority in 1915 when they came over as refugees and declined? Is there really a difference that is quantifiable if it's a CHOICE?
Stephanie September 29, 2012 at 03:02 AM
John Farrell, My daughter attends a Governor's School, though not the one mentioned in the article. My step-children have all graduated or are graduating from one of the lowest ranked school systems in the Commonwealth and my son graduated from one system not much higher. As it stands, I have experience with both the public system and the Governor's School system. I see bigotry alright, when I see children of certain races bullying other children that want to do well and achieve. I see schools that teach the kids to pass the SOL's and who cares about anything else. I see teachers of different races that show favoritism to those students of their own race, because they need "extra help" that those of "privilege" don't need, never mind the fact that there isn't much "privilege" around here anyway. You want to see a segregated school system? Come down to mine, and see how much these children and their parents actually care about getting an education! Change the culture that allows and even encourages such behavior before complaining about bigotry and segregation.
phil September 29, 2012 at 03:18 AM
..Keep listening to Libs like Ms. Hone, and Asians will be unable to attend. It will make those children left behind..to look badly. Asian children, still relatively new to America, have many advantages that other children lack. Most Asian families actually have a FATHER and a mother in the same house. Asian children are expected to contribute to the family and to value an education, and to respect the family elders. Asian families do not regard themselves as "victims" of the system, and most are self supporting. The sad part is that most Asian parts just don't seem to comprehend the fact that those students who try harder...should be penalized. These honest, hard working, families are having a tough time figuring out why anyone would wish to "dumb-down" a perfectly good, highly successful, school, just to be Politically correct! Some things just don't translate well between cultures.
Jody September 29, 2012 at 03:37 AM
Taking a look at how students are identified for gifted programs to make sure they are accurately identifying kids with high ability and high motivation to learn wouldn't hurt. But TJ admission should continue to be based on merit, not racial percentages.
John Lutz September 29, 2012 at 04:46 AM
Whatever...... Trying to smear Virginia, huh.
Reston Mom September 29, 2012 at 06:04 AM
The problem with the existing test is that families whose parents "prep" their kids get an advantage on the test over families who just take the test. In order to be exposed to enough higher math concepts to do well on the test, kids need compacted math beginning in 3rd grade (for which they are tested in 1st and 2nd grade to be accepted into the gifted program). The real decision point happens much, much earlier than middle school. If parents aren't tuned into the system well enough to plan for their kids to get the math they need all the way through elementary school, then the kids aren't going to do (as) well on the TJ admissions test.
John September 29, 2012 at 06:10 AM
The great Rev. King would roll over in his grave if he knew blacks wanted to go to a school even though their grades did not qualify them. If we are to judge EVERYONE on the content of their character then we should all have the same chances and suffer the SAME consequences if we don't qualify or measure up. This is an example of liberal democrat soft racism. Liberals push for special treatement of minoritys because they have low expectations of them. The minoritys then have low expectations of themselves, they lose their self respect and ambition. ONLY when blacks are held to the same standards everyone else is will they advance from their world of being #1 in virtually every indicator of abject overty.
John September 29, 2012 at 06:20 AM
You sound like a union tool. K-12 is broken. If it was a competent teaching system High School exit exams wouldn't test the 12th graders Knowledge at the 5th, 6th and 7th grade level. If K-12 was doing an adequate job The College Freshman classes would not be mostly remedial classes teaching what the student should have learned in High School. If K-12 system was a competent system High Tech companys would not need the B-1 visas to import competent Scientists and Mathimaticians. If you're going to make excuses at least come with up some new ones. Your using the same excuses they were using 20 years ago.
Pat Floyd September 29, 2012 at 10:49 AM
So what's the big deal? Discrimination is legal in America--so long as you discriminate against the right people. It's called "affirmative action".
sieben13 September 29, 2012 at 11:54 AM
2012 an we are still dealing with race issues in America. We must be relentless in stopping this madness wherever it may occur .Sue these RACIST and hit them where it counts"In their wallets.Fire those that are found responsible for this madness.
John Macintire September 29, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Agree with Mr. Kenny. Always whine your way in and sue if you don't feel like earning it.
John Macintire September 29, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Agreed John. Why indeed...
John Macintire September 29, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Could not have been stated better! Good for you Cynthia.
Kathy Keith September 29, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Reston Mom, The problem starts way before the child goes to school. If parents park the kids in front of the tv and don't help them develop appropriate language skills, the child will struggle in Kindergarten. Sure, the school can help--but the schools cannot make up four years of educational neglect on the part of the parent. I'm not talking about formal instruction, I'm talking about positive interaction with other children and adults. This is not limited to poor or minority parents. I've seen mothers walking with their children in strollers while listening to their ipads or talking on their cellphone. I've seen mothers in produce sections of grocery stores with toddlers in the cart--talking on cellphones instead of picking up produce and talking to the child about it. These are lessons that are important for the intellectual development of a child. The only way this can be addressed is education for parents--they must understand how important it is to talk about things with their children, set standards of behavior, and help the child develop a curiosity about the world. If the child cannot/willnot respond to basic directions from the teacher, it is hard to make that up in a year or two of school. Most people would be surprised to learn that some children arrive at school not knowing basic information--colors, animals, foods, etc.etc. There used to be public service messages about the importance of reading to children. I'd like to see that again.
Anoneemous September 29, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Since the 1954 Brown VS Board of Education decision, governments at all levels have tried many schemes to improve the academic performance of blacks, to include Affirmative Action programs that give blacks and other minorities a racial preference. So, after so many years and so many attempts to improve academic performance of blacks and hispanics, WHY is it that in 2012, blacks and hispanics can not successfully compete with whites and asians in Fairfax County or the US education system overall? After more than 50 years of racial gerrymandering, affirmative action, forced busing, and many other attempts to help blacks and hispanics compete, I just don't buy the argument that Fairfax County or the nation is just a bunch of racists. So, the big question is, why can't blacks and hispanics achieve academic success at the same level as whites and asians? What are the real reasons? Can't wait to read the replies.
John September 29, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Exceptional opportunities???????????? Check the High School Exit Exam at these High Schools of "exceptional opportinities" and you will find exit exams that test the 12th graders knowledge at the 5th, 5th and 7th grade level. Most tests are all multiple choice and passing is 50%. WHY ?????????????? The K-12 system is broken. The K-12 system is the greatest danger America has ever faced. A country can only exist and thrive with a well educated population.
John September 29, 2012 at 04:23 PM
The soft racism of low expectations of the democrat paty has stripped the majority of blacks of their self respect and ambition. All of these programs you speak of has inculcated un the thinking of the black community that they need and are entitled to extra programs to help them succeed. The black community has been brainwashed by 60+ years of democrat paty soft racism. ONLY when blacks are held to the same standards of everyone else will they become EQUALLYcontributing members of our society. It's time for liberals to stop making excuses for the black community and allow them to grow up. EVERY extremely successfull Conservative black person who has become successfull by working hard and getting a good education without democrat help is marked for destruction by the black community and their parent, the democrat party. WHY????????????? Soft Racism!
Rk September 29, 2012 at 07:45 PM
John hits the nail on the head. It is the soft (to the eyes of most conservatives, blatant) Democratic racism that has insidiously permeated the culture to the point where low expectations are not only expected, but inevitable. Mostly affecting the African American community and now being expanded to ensnare the Latino community. From childhood to adulthood they are fed a constant drumbeat of racism and discrimination to foster the belief that you can't make it anyway so why even try. It serves to create a reliable dependency class that can be pandered to and exploited for votes. No more evident than the most despicable comment of the election season, Joe Biden at a VA campaign rally telling a majority black audience that Romney and the Republicans are "gonna put y'all back in chains"
John September 29, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Thank you! I've been saying basically the same thing for months on huffpost and you're the first person to actually agree with me. Spread the word and maybe more people will realize what the soft racism of low expectations can do to an entire segment of our society.
Joe Bagadonuts September 29, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Kids - Check out this website. Observe the adults arguing past each, calling each other names, generalizing, drawing conclusions first, then arranging their version of facts to coincide with their preconceptions. This is a teaching moment: get a good education or you'll end up being adult internet trolls. Now go study - I do not want to see any of you growing up to be Patch comments posters. You can do better with your lives!
Rk September 29, 2012 at 09:55 PM
I guess you mean like you Joe? Yes kids, don't be like joebagasomethin... When you comment, bring something to the conversation, try to be respectful, and let your opinion be heard.
Rk September 29, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Here's a fact Joe... images.huffingtonpost.com/2011-03-01-studentspendvsachievementblog.jpg
LG November 27, 2012 at 08:18 PM
I am Asian and my kids were born and raised here - local!
Ryan B March 31, 2013 at 04:21 PM
I think that's a little ditty called inflation...

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