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NAACP, Local Advocates File Discrimination Complaint Against FCPS

Discrimination in Thomas Jefferson admissions process begins even before applications are due, complaint to U.S. Department of Education says

A complaint filed Monday by two local advocacy groups alleges Fairfax County Public Schools is perpetuating discrimination against black, Latino and disabled students through the admission process for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST).

The Coalition of the Silence (COTS), a group former school board member Tina Hone founded to seek equity for all students within FCPS, and the Fairfax branch of the NAACP filed the discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, asserting FCPS has committed "clear violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964." 

At press time, FCPS had not yet had time to review the complaint, spokesman John Torre said.

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.

The complaint, written by Hone and NAACP-Fairfax County's Education Chair Charisse Espy Glassman, comes two business days after a Fairfax County School Board . At the work session, the board discussed both the lack of diversity and the declining math scores at the the Governor's School for science and technology in recent years. The board has charged FCPS staff to begin researching how to improve in both areas.

But the work session did not satisfy those who argue the process is discriminatory long before a student chooses to apply to the prestigious school, which recently earned No. 2 on U.S. News and World Report's annual ranking of U.S. high schools.

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."

More than half of students admitted to TJHSST's class of 2016 : Carson, Longfellow, Rocky Run and Kilmer. Black and Latino student populations at all four schools are far smaller than the percentage of black (10.4 percent) and Latino (20.6) students across the county's school system.

"In a room that was packed to capacity primarily by TJ parents and staff, the conversation almost immediately veered away from concerns regarding the underrepresentation of African American and Latino students at TJ and towards discussion about how to ensure the 'right' FCPS students would get into TJ," the complaint reads, referring to the July 19 work session on the admissions process.

At the session, board members and TJHSST officials said an increasing number of admitted students are struggling with their math courses — a sign that the application process is selecting students not ready for the rigorous TJHSST courses.

In the complaint, Hone and Glassman argue that adjusting the admissions criteria to weigh test scores more heavily will only lead to similar disproportionate numbers at TJHSST.

"Test scores — without additional context and balance — are not a reliable predictor of future success," the complaint reads. "On information and belief, FCPS has never been able to produce longitudinal data supporting the myth that test scores have predictive value."

The Office of Civil Rights can choose to open an investigation after it reads the complaint, but is not obligated to follow up on the document, Hone said in a Monday phone interview with Patch. An investigation would reveal data that to date has largely been unavailable, Hone said, along with a much deeper look at the admissions process and issues associated with it.

"We felt it was our responsibility to sort of lay out with as much clarity as we could what we think the actual problem is ... a lot of the conversation has been around the edges but there's something much bigger going on that we have to deal with," Hone said. "We'll see what happens. I'm hopeful."

Vienna Patch Editor contributed reporting for this story.

For more on TJ:

Eric Jeffrey July 26, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Gee Don, with witticisms such as that, you must have been a real terror on the playground. Too bad you never grew up.
Don Joy July 26, 2012 at 03:50 PM
The Bell Curve is correct, just not politically correct.
Curveball July 26, 2012 at 03:55 PM
I'd call Jeff a sophist, but he uses too many logical fallacies to qualify. Now, if asking that question gets me branded by you as a racist, then I see your approach in what is called the sociology of knowledge. You'd be surprised at the kind of work I do and what a "lefty" I am. I also think for myself. You say the fact that blacks are also good at long-distance running it blows my fast-twitch muscle point "to smithereens." Why can't blacks be superior at both long-distance running and sprinting? I expect you know that certain regions of Africa are known for producing many of the best at one or the other kind of running athlete -- fast or slow. Bouchard's study didn't look at athletes. It looked at black and white and fast-twitch muscles. You say there's nothing beyond that. Perhaps because of folks like you. Your approach would be to look no further. I haven't jumped into this conversation to try to prove that blacks are intellectually inferior. I did so because you're so full of......uh, yourself. You acknowledge that fast-twitch muscles are found at "a higher rate" in the black population, but that this is "an individual genetic trait not a racial trait." So you're saying this is a trait present in a greater percentage of people in a particular race. Do you ever notice when you go way out there on that logical limb that it gets thinner and starts to bend downward a lot? Your debating opponent is yourself, not me.
Eric Jeffrey July 26, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Ah, the battle cry of know nothing racists everywhere, who of course never adduce a single shred of evidence. How I love the smell of stupidity in the morning.
Eric Jeffrey July 26, 2012 at 04:11 PM
I am not sure that you even know what a sophist is. And it does not matter what you do, you still have little understanding of genetics if you believe that something that is simply found in greater abundance among one race than another is a racial trait. Nobody who has taken even an elementary genetics course should make such a foolish mistake. And one cannot debate oneself by taking a consistent position, which is exactly what I have done. You are also wrong about Dr. Bouchard's work, which I imagine you have not read, He does in fact address runners, not race. Apparently you are too slow to understand why fast twitch and slow twitch muscles cannot both be racial traits. One may predominate in one place and one in another, but these are people of the same race, so it cannot be a racial trait. Certain diseases, for example, may be called racial traits, because there are genes found in a particular race (or in some other particular population) linked to that disease but genes that are spread throughout all races but simply found more commonly in certain races are not racial traits. And you still have not explained what any of this has to do with your original comment about basketball. Finally, while I answer to Jeff among friends, you may call me Eric
Uncle Smartypants July 26, 2012 at 04:13 PM
I wish George "Macaca" Allen or his staff would weigh in here. He is the racism expert.
John Farrell July 26, 2012 at 04:37 PM
The Tamils of southern India and Sri Lanka have skin pigment darker than most sub-Saharan Africans. Do they have an elevated level of fast twitch muscles, too? How about the the native people of Australia, their skin pigment is far darker than most sub-Sahara Afircans? If you believe that race exists, which scientists say it doesn't, are those two ethnic groups included in the "black race?" How about the Ine (sp?) of northern Japan and the Turkmen of Central Asia? Are their genotypes the same? What's the comparative percentage of fast twitch muscles between Mende, Hutsi and Tutut? It's so easy for Americans of European heritage to believe they can make fine distinctions and generalizations between people of Nordic versus Mediterranean versus Slavic heritage and than lump everyone from Africa into one group and everyone from Asia into another. That's the fundamental fiction of racism. It's a dead end. Is FCPS a segregated school system? Bet your anatomy it is.
Curveball July 26, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Eric must have an advance copy of a new paper by Claude Bouchard. Because the only one out there for the rest of us right now concerns Bouchards taking muscle samples from two groups of students: French-Canadian and West-African. He did not test athletes per se. No doubt some of the subjects had athletic backgrounds, but that's was not part of the study. Bouchard found that the West-African students had significantly more large fast-twitch muscles. Eric, if you would, please provide a cite to Bouchard's more recent work concerning runners so I can get up to speed with you.
John Farrell July 26, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Well, now we know Bouchard is junk science! French-Canadians are representative of a "race" that includes Slavs, Celts, Hungarians, Finns and Russ. West Africans?! What the h*ll is a West African? Do you know how many different tribes exist in West Africa? Do you know that West Africans are among the most genetically diverse group of people on the planet?
Jody July 26, 2012 at 04:57 PM
What on earth are you talking about? I certainly deny it. There are a multitude of federal, state, local and private agencies to help the poor and disabled in the population. Children especially have enormous opportunity in the US. Everyone gets a free education and if you work hard you can be whatever you want to be. You'll have to find some reasons other than prejudice to explain why some individual young people don't take advantage of their education and why some individuals can't seem to break out of the cycle of poverty.
Eric Jeffrey July 26, 2012 at 04:59 PM
No, there a couple of existing papers out there which I have read and long since discarded. Don't recall whether or not they were in journals. In one, he discussed East versus west Africans and speed versus endurance. You correctly describe his first work, but it was not for the purpose of identifying differences between blacks and whites. Indeed, he has explained that high degrees of fast twitch (and low twitch) muscle fibers are present in every population (a much better word than race), but that they had a higher proportion among West Africans. East Africans displayed a different pattern, and he did not explore other black populations. Perhaps some of our issues are semantic. It is obvious that fast twitch muscles are not a racial trait, as even apart from their broad distribution among all races and populations, they are concentrated only in certain African populations. Thus, even if you could attribute the trait to a group, it would be to a population -- West African blacks. Kenyans, for example, have a very different muscle pattern. There was research done by a Swede, the name of whom escapes me, in which he found that Kenyan school kids could routinely beat Swedish top runners at middle to long distances -- whether in Kenya or in Sweden. He found that both had similar fiber compositions, but there were small differences in shape and processing that appeared to make a difference. I am not sure this was really genetic or environmental, though.
Eric Jeffrey July 26, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Please excuse the typos and a wrod omission or two, as I needed to type fast and also to cut out words to meet the maximum. I hope the meaning comes through.
Heather Barber July 26, 2012 at 05:41 PM
I absolutely do not wish to engage in the back-and-forth about race discrimination; however, I feel compelled to offer information that might assist some produtive dialogue, as it is imperative that FCPS takes a long, hard look at the practices in place (on many fronts). I teach an AAP class in a non-center school. I have also been a part of the student screening process at my own school and at the central level. I can assure you that race is not involved in any way - but there is much effort put into making sure we are not overlooking students that should be identified...test scores are only one part of the equation. There are no quotas or any mention of percentages. That said, there are some elements that are subjective, and this is a problem. In many ways, I would defend the process (from the level that I have experienced) - but there are some elements with which I have huge issues. As I said in my previous comment, there are certain schools where nearly half of the 2nd graders are found eligible - something is not right with that picture. We owe it to all students to make a commitment to improve the process and not be afraid of change.
Jody July 26, 2012 at 08:16 PM
My child went to an elementary school with a GT center. I wondered why there were so many asian children in that little area of Springfield then I realized that they purposely chose to live there because they were certain and determined that their children would get into GT. Maybe half the kids at any given school are eligible. Another reason why looking at percentages is the wrong way to go.
Karen July 27, 2012 at 11:31 AM
Caroline, the County does not have equitable services for "gifted" kids based on geography, not race.
Q.Donald July 28, 2012 at 12:18 AM
The comments you make do not further this discussion/debate. Your arguments are weak because you fail to hold yourself to the same rigorous standards of evidence and proof to which you expect everyone else to meet.
Q.Donald July 28, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Eric Jeffrey, The comments you make do not further this discussion/debate. Your arguments are weak because you fail to hold yourself to the same rigorous standards of evidence and proof to which you expect everyone else to meet.
Tj fan too July 28, 2012 at 07:54 PM
So Eric if you dont like or believe what you hear, you just consider it tobe apocryphal. How convenient on your part. I however know the parties involved and can assure you that racism cuts in all directions. Ask obama. Could you have transferred to columbia with a c average. Not if you are white and not well connected. LIFE WLL NEVER BE FAIR
Barbara Glakas July 28, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Don, About the “studies” you posted, I have to agree with Eric – what a load of crap. You might as well have posted some studies written by the KKK. I noticed “Council of Conservative Citizens” organization which published one of the studies, has several organizational “principals,” one which of is that they believe that “the American people and government should remain European in their composition and character.”
Barbara Glakas July 28, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Spelling correction to my last post at 5:32: It should read “principles,” not “principals.”
Don Joy July 29, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Jared Taylor weighs in: http://www.amren.com/news/2012/07/those-unmentionable-asians/ For those who don't know, Mr. Taylor happens to live in Fairfax County.
Don Joy July 29, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Jared Taylor on the NAACP lawsuit against FCPS: http://www.amren.com/news/2012/07/those-unmentionable-asians/ For those who don't know, Mr. Taylor lives in Fairfax County.
Don Joy July 29, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Barbara, I understand that you don't like the scientific findings of people such as Dr. Rushton, but apart from your emotional response, can you rebut them factually? Just wondering.
Barbara Glakas July 30, 2012 at 11:48 AM
Don, What I don’t like is racism. And I am familiar with Jarod Taylor, founder of the American Renaissance, who is a pro-white thinker, believes in racial profiling, believes that blacks are less intelligent than whites, etc. He had a meeting in a Herndon hotel a couple of years, to which David Duke attended. I won’t bother trying to rebut any of your or Jarod Taylor’s theories. I’ll just leave it to say that you and I differ greatly on this matter.
Todd August 02, 2012 at 11:52 PM
"Test scores — without additional context and balance — are not a reliable predictor of future success," the complaint reads. "On information and belief, FCPS has never been able to produce longitudinal data supporting the myth that test scores have predictive value." No one is saying test scores alone are indicative of success, and the admissions process does not consider those scores alone. However, test scores are needed to be able to place a cutoff after which other factors can be considered. TJ is not just a normal school with some smart students sprinkled in; it moves at a much different and much faster pace, and plainly put if you can not hold your own in math and science you will fail behind, be unable to catch up, and very likely get discouraged at a young age as a result. Because of that, an objective way (specifically test scores and math/science grades) are needed to make sure any student who makes it through the first cut can at least survive at the school. At the next round it is important to pick students who are well-rounded mentally and academically, so you end up with a school with a much richer academic environment. You do not want the final cut to just be the top 400 student in tests, but it is of the utmost importance that those 400 be able to hold their own once in.
Todd August 02, 2012 at 11:54 PM
Granted I don't know what the exact admissions process is now. When I was there 15 years ago, test scores and grades were the first round, and that helped place a floor under the students who made that cut to ensure they would not be left behind. The next round considered essays, teacher recommendations, and other activities to make sure they didn't end up with 400 robots. And it seemed to work pretty well.
Todd August 02, 2012 at 11:55 PM
From what I have read recently, though, they have made the test easier and incorporated more subjective criteria early on, which is a huge mistake. The test needs to be hard to winnow out those who would not be able to make it four years at the school; it sounds harsh, but that's the plain and simple of it. And subjective stuff should be left to the second round, as it is of primary importance to the functioning of the school to make sure the ground that needs to be covered by the objective testing is covered first.
Jody August 04, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Four hundred "robots?" Do you mean that they are so into their studies that they hardly seem to do anything else and are possibly lacking in personality! So what?The phrase "math and science geek" is probably rooted in truth. If the school is filled with geeks and robots who came out on top, that's fine with me. That's who this school is for!
ss March 26, 2013 at 02:01 AM
It's who you know and not what you know that gets you into TJ. Same for FCPS employment practices. People of color don't stand a chance applying there for work. They give you the stare down with a look in their eyes that say, "Are you kidding me." When you walk into these interview rooms and your complexion don't match theirs, you are a most unwelcome guest
Anoneemous March 26, 2013 at 02:47 AM
SS: Why is it that "...People of color don't stand a chance applying there for work.?" Does it have anything to do with adequate qualifications? Tell us please.

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