Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology’s current admissions policy will remain in place after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider a lawsuit alleging that it discriminates against Asian students.
The Supreme Court denied a petition for a hearing today (Tuesday) by the Coalition for TJ, an advocacy group that sued the Fairfax County School Board in 2021 after the admissions process for the highly competitive magnet school was revised with the goal of diversifying the student body.
The Supreme Court’s decision not to take up the case ends a legal battle that lasted nearly three years and could’ve upended diversity initiatives in public education nationwide.
“We have long believed that the new admissions process is both constitutional and in the best interest of all of our students,” said School Board Chair Karl Frisch, who represents Providence District. “It guarantees that all qualified students from all neighborhoods in Fairfax County have a fair shot at attending this exceptional high school.”
The school board voted in December 2020 to eliminate a standardized test and application fee that were previously required for students seeking admittance into Thomas Jefferson High School (TJ). The board also raised the minimum grade point average for applicants, guaranteed eligibility to the top 1.5% of eighth graders at each middle school and added essay requirements and consideration of “experience factors” such as a student’s status as a recipient of free meals or involvement in special education.
Spurred by student activism after Fairfax County Public Schools reported that fewer than 10 Black students had been accepted in both 2019 and 2020, the policy overhaul has resulted in more diverse classes at TJ, particularly in terms of geography and income, since the changes took effect in 2021 for the Class of 2025.
Though Asian students got 61.6% of offers for the freshman class that entered last fall, compared to 19% for white students, 6.7% for Black students and 6% for Hispanic students, the Coalition for TJ has argued that the revised policy was designed to reduce the number of Asian students at the school, violating Constitutional protections against racial discrimination.
A district court judge agreed with the coalition in 2022 that Asian American students were “disproportionately harmed,” ordering FCPS to scrap the new admissions policy. However, that ruling was overturned last May by an appeals court panel that found the coalition had failed to prove that the school board “adopted its race-neutral policy with any discriminatory intent.”
The coalition petitioned the Supreme Court to pick up the case after the justices ruled in June 2023 that colleges can’t explicitly consider race as part of their admissions processes, ending decades of affirmative action programs intended to boost Black, Hispanic and other often underrepresented students.
Pacific Legal Foundation senior attorney Joshua Thompson, who represented the Coalition for TJ, says the Supreme Court “missed an important opportunity” to address admissions policies like the ones adopted for TJ that don’t explicitly consider race but still affect student demographics.
“Today, the American Dream was dealt a blow, but we remain committed to protecting the values of merit, equality, and justice,” Coalition for TJ co-founder Asra Nomani said in a statement. “…For the courageous families who have tirelessly fought for the principles that our nation holds dear, this decision is a setback but not a death blow to our commitment to the American Dream, which promises equal opportunity and justice for all.”
In a statement from FCPS, Frisch noted that TJ has accepted students from every Fairfax County middle school and maintained an average grade-point average for its incoming classes of 3.9 over the past three years.
A 21-year-old from McLean will help give young Virginians a say in how the U.S. government addresses climate change and other environmental issues.
Sophia Kianni, who founded the nonprofit Climate Cardinals, is one of 16 people appointed to the Environmental Protection Agency’s first-ever youth advisory council, which will provide independent guidance and recommendations on policies related to greenhouse gas emissions, clean air and water, and more.
Announced last week in a press release and a Teen Vogue interview, the National Environmental Youth Advisory Council (NEYAC) consists of people aged 16 to 29 who will serve two-year terms. It will report directly to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, who visited Flint Hill Elementary School in Vienna last year to highlight Fairfax County Public Schools’ new electric school buses.
“Young people have been at the forefront of every movement for political and social change in American history, and the environmental movement is no different,” Regan said in the press release. “Today we are cementing seats for young leaders at EPA’s table as we tackle the greatest environmental challenges of our time.”
This isn’t the first time Kianni has gotten a prominent platform for her environmental advocacy. Currently studying at Stanford University, she previously served on a Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change to the United Nations secretary-general, and a TED Talk she gave in 2021 has drawn over 2 million views.
The talk centered on the same topic at the heart of Climate Cardinals: the need for climate research an educational resources to be available in different languages.
Inspired by a visit to Iran when she was in middle school, Kianni founded Climate Cardinals in 2020 — the same year she graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, according to a Northern Virginia Magazine profile. The nonprofit’s reach is now international, with 10,000 volunteers in over 80 countries who can translate 100 languages.
I look forward to your contributions to the fight against climate change, Sophia. You make VA-11 proud!
— Rep. Gerry Connolly (@GerryConnolly) November 16, 2023
“I am immensely proud to congratulate my constituent Sophia Kianni on her selection for the @EPA National Environmental Youth Advisory Council,” Connolly said in a tweet. “Sophia will serve our community and our nation as she provides advice and recommendations on climate concerns affecting America’s youth.”
In a graphic shared by Warner, Kianni said she was “excited to work alongside Administrator Regan and his incredible team to leverage intergenerational insights and innovation to work together for a more sustainable and equitable future.”
Glad to see the launch of this program to mobilize young people against one of the most pressing issues of our time – climate change. I’m particularly glad that Virginia will be represented by Sophia Kianni, a Vienna, Virginia native! https://t.co/zv3dYc6Ujq pic.twitter.com/esKaMrf9XO
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) November 16, 2023
The EPA announced in June that it would establish a youth advisory council, inviting older teens and young adults from around the country to apply for the 16 spots. At least half the seats were reserved for people from communities considered disadvantaged due to flood and wildfire risks, pollution, housing and transportation barriers, and other obstacles.
According to the EPA, the inaugural members were chosen from 1,000 applicants “to represent a variety of interests, lived experiences, partisan affiliation, and geographic locations.” They come from 13 different states and have backgrounds in issues from climate change and conservation to food security and workforce development.
NEYAC will meet at least two times every year, starting in 2024.
Six of the 10 best high schools in Northern Virginia belong to Fairfax County Public Schools, as newly declared by Northern Virginia Magazine.
For its recently published October issue, the magazine’s editorial staff ranked the top 25 top public high schools in the region based on graduation and chronic absenteeism rates, Standards of Learning test pass rates, and other data from the 2021-2022 school year.
Unsurprisingly leading the way is Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ), the competitive magnet school near Lincolnia that has mostly made headlines in recent years for the political and legal battles over changes to its admissions policies.
Despite the ongoing debate over admissions and the diversity of its student body, TJ “remains the leading high school both in our region, and in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” FCPS Superintendent Michelle Reid said in a statement to FFXnow.
In addition to topping Northern Virginia Magazine’s list, TJ was named the fifth best high school, the number-one magnet school and the fourth best science, technology, engineer and math-focused high school in the country by U.S. News and World Report, which released its annual, nationwide public high school rankings in August.
In an interview with Northern Virginia Magazine, TJ principal Ann Bonitatibus said the school has focused increasingly on student wellness since she arrived six years ago. Three-quarters of students reported experiencing a stress-related health issue in a survey conducted in 2018.
“Being mindful of overall wellness has become a natural part of the fabric of TJHSST, so we are now turning our attention to innovative practices,” Bonitatibus said. “TJHSST has been known as a leader in academic and extracurricular arenas, so it’s important we remain contemporary as we equip our students with skills that will be transferable in their future.”
TJ wasn’t the only Fairfax County school to make a splash in the magazine’s rankings.
FCPS swept the top three spots, with Langley High School and McLean High School coming in at no. 2 and 3, respectively. Oakton High School followed close behind at no. 5, though Loudoun County’s Freedom High School prevented FCPS from fully taking over the top five.
Other Fairfax County schools to make the list include:
- Vienna’s Madison High School (no. 6)
- Robinson Secondary School (no. 10)
- Woodson High School (no. 17)
- West Springfield High School (no. 20)
- Chantilly High School (no. 22)
- Lake Braddock Secondary School (no. 23)
- Marshall High School in Idylwood (no. 24)
TJ, Langley, McLean, Oakton, Marshall and Woodson were also ranked among the top 10 public high schools in Virginia for 2023 by the U.S. News and World Report.
Reid said she was “honored to learn that Northern Virginia Magazine ranks our high schools as among the best in Northern Virginia.”
“Overall, the rankings reflect FCPS’ commitment to excellence, equity, and opportunity as we launch our seven-year Strategic Plan, which will ensure every student has the chance to meet their greatest potential from now through 2030,” Reid said. “With this plan, I am confident FCPS will remain Virginia’s education leader for years to come.”
The Coalition for TJ is petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to consider its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology’s admissions policy, which was revised in 2020 with the goal of diversifying the student body.
In the petition filed Monday (Aug. 21), the advocacy group argues that the changes approved by the Fairfax County School Board discriminate against Asian students, who saw their share of the magnet school’s incoming classes drop from more than 70% to closer to 60% in the past few years.
The coalition indicated it would take the case to the country’s highest federal court after a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled 2-1 in the school board’s favor on May 23.
But the fight over TJ’s admissions has grown in significance following the Supreme Court’s June 29 decision to prohibit colleges from considering race in admissions decisions. Where that case tackled policies that explicitly take race into account, the Coalition for TJ contends that race-neutral policies designed to boost underrepresented groups can still violate other students’ equal protection rights.
“The Fourth Circuit’s ruling merits this Court’s review because it presents a question of national importance that the Court has yet to answer directly,” Pacific Legal Foundation attorneys representing the coalition wrote in their petition. “Coming as it does on the heels of last Term’s decision curtailing racial discrimination in higher education admissions, this is one of several ongoing challenges to competitive K-12 admissions criteria that seek to accomplish a racial objective ‘indirectly’ because it ‘cannot be done directly.'”
Spurred by student and alumni activism, the school board overhauled the TJ admissions process after Fairfax County Public Schools reported that fewer than 10 Black students had been accepted in both 2019 and 2020.
In addition to eliminating an application fee and rigorous standardized test, the new policy bumped up the GPA requirement to 3.5, granted eligibility to the top 1.5% of eighth graders at each middle school, introduced a “portrait sheet” where students discuss their skills and write a problem-solving essay, and allows consideration of students’ economic status or involvement in English as a Second Language and special education programs.
The changes were the latest attempt to bring more Black, Hispanic and low-income students to TJ, which is often ranked among the top high schools in the U.S. but has long faced scrutiny for admissions practices that critics argued catered to families who could afford to live in certain neighborhoods and pay for private tutoring and test-preparation services.
Since the revised policy took effect in 2021, FCPS has touted increased racial, geographic and economic diversity in each of the three admitted classes, which have all included students from every Fairfax County middle school — something that hadn’t happened in the prior decade.
FCPS has argued that the changes were race-blind and benefitted all groups, including lower-income Asian students. The appeals court judges who sided with the school board said the Coalition for TJ failed to prove that Asian students were “disparately” affected and “that the Board adopted its race-neutral policy with any discriminatory intent.”
FCPS didn’t return a request for comment by press time.
In a joint statement, a collection of civil rights and community advocacy groups — including the Virginia NAACP, TJ Alumni for Racial Justice, CASA Virginia, Hispanic Federation, Hamkae Center and Asian American Youth Leadership Empowerment and Development (AALEAD) — argued that the Coalition for TJ’s lawsuit would limit, rather than expand, equal access to education.
“In essence, the plaintiff seeks to cement pre-existing inequalities by prohibiting school districts from trying to remedy any unfairness in the admissions process that may change the racial makeup of accepted students,” the groups said.
“Every parent wants to know their child will not be disadvantaged in our public education system no matter their personal wealth or language abilities,” Hamkae Center Director Sookyung Oh said. “It is imperative that students from communities of color, including Asian Americans, will not be disadvantaged by an unfair admissions process and will have the same access…only previously afforded to those with the wealth and privilege to get their children into schools like TJ.”
(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) The current admissions process for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) does not discriminate against Asian American students, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has ruled.
A majority of the three-judge panel backed the Fairfax County School Board’s argument in support of admissions policy changes intended to increase diversity at the prestigious magnet school, reversing a lower court’s ruling that sided with the Coalition for TJ.
The advocacy group filed a lawsuit against the school board in March 2021, arguing that the changes adopted in 2020 were intended to reduce the number of Asian students at TJ in violation of the Constitution.
In an opinion published today (Tuesday), Circuit Judge Robert King says the Coalition failed to prove that the school board intended to discriminate against Asian students, who have, in fact, seen “greater success in securing admission to TJ under the policy than students from any other racial or ethnic group.”
“After thorough consideration of the record and the appellate contentions, we are satisfied that the challenged admissions policy does not disparately impact Asian American students and that the Coalition cannot establish that the Board adopted its race-neutral policy with any discriminatory intent,” King wrote.
Since taking effect with the Class of 2025, the admissions changes — which included dropping a required test and application fee and taking into account a student’s economic, special education or English-learner status — have resulted in offers going to a broader range of students in terms of race, geography and income.
The Class of 2025 was the first in a decade to accept students from all middle schools. It also saw an uptick in Black, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students, Fairfax County Public Schools reported. Both that year and last year, Asian students still received a majority of offers.
“The court reached the correct decision, and we firmly believe this admission plan is fair and gives qualified applicants at every middle school a fair chance of a seat at TJ,” John Foster, the school board’s division counsel, said in a statement. “We look forward to offering seats to a new group of remarkable and incredibly well-qualified young scholars in the years to come.”
U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton had ruled in February 2022 that Asian students were “disproportionately harmed” by the admissions changes, which he said were implemented in a “remarkably rushed and shoddy” process.
Hilton ordered that FCPS stop using the new policy, but the appeals court agreed to let it stay in place while the lawsuit continued.
While King said that Hilton’s judgment “went fatally awry” in not addressing how racial and ethnic groups other than Asians fared under the new policy, Circuit Judge Allison Rushing argued a dissenting opinion that the changes were “passed with discriminatory intent and disproportionately impact a particular racial group,” even if they appear race-neutral on paper.
“The twelve-member Board plainly stated its intention to craft an admissions policy for TJ that would reform the racial composition of the student body to reflect the racial demographics of the district,” she wrote.
The Coalition for TJ says it wasn’t surprised by the ruling and intends to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We are disappointed by today’s ruling, but we are not discouraged,” Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Erin Wilcox, who has been representing the coalition, siad. “Discrimination against students based on their race is wrong and violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. We look forward to asking the Supreme Court to end this illegal practice once and for all.”
The Supreme Court is already considering a case on affirmative action in college admissions. Some universities have started to review their practices, with the mostly conservative justices expected to defy precedent by declaring race-conscious admissions unlawful.
An app created by a trio of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology students to help kids with autism may someday be deployed in Fairfax County’s special education classrooms.
Sophomores Soham Jain, Rohan Kotla and Samvrit Rao have already earned recognition from Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-10) for RoutineRemind, an app designed to help parents and kids keep track of their schedules.
RoutineRemind was the 10th District’s winner in the 2022 Congressional App Challenge, Wexton announced on Dec. 22. The annual competition aims to encourage science, technology, engineering and math education by inviting students from across the country to develop and submit their own apps.
The 2022 contest drew over 500 submissions, a new record, according to organizers.
“I was so impressed by not only their remarkable technical skills in designing this winning app, but also their ingenuity and care in developing a way to help kids with autism and their families,” Wexton said in a statement, congratulating the TJ students.
A big congratulations to #VA10's Congressional App Challenge winners, team RoutineRemind—Rohan, Samvrit, & Soham!
I was so impressed by their creation of a scheduling app to aid kids with social and cognitive impairments like autism.
Bravo, RoutineRemind! You've made us proud. pic.twitter.com/Q6stdx5rQ2
— Rep. Jennifer Wexton (@RepWexton) December 22, 2022
In joint comments to FFXnow, Soham, Rohan and Samvit said they have regularly worked together on school projects and share an interest in “the intersection between computer science and biology.”
Seeing the challenge as an opportunity to put their tech and teamwork skills to the test, the students turned to personal experience when brainstorming ideas for an app.
In a demonstration video, Rohan said he has a younger brother with autism and has always been interested in finding ways to improve the lives of people with autism and other cognitive disabilities.
His brother sometimes struggles to remember his schedule, leading him to frequently ask for reminders. Individuals with autism often find comfort in routine, but many also experience executive functioning challenges, affecting their ability to plan or focus.
“After surveying the special needs community in [our] area, we found that this is a mutual problem across children with autism, since many of them are schedule-oriented,” the students told FFXnow. “Given the prevalence of the problem, we wanted to develop a simple, adaptable, and user-friendly schedule and reminder app to help those with social and cognitive impairments.” Read More
(Updated at 10:40 a.m.) The Virginia Attorney General’s office has launched an investigation into Fairfax County Public Schools, alleging that delays in notifying students of commendations for their preliminary SAT test scores may constitute civil rights violations.
Attorney General Jason Miyares announced yesterday that the entire school system will be subject to a review that began last week with a focus on Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ).
The expansion comes after principals at Westfield and Langley high schools reportedly informed families over the weekend that they also didn’t notify students designated as “commended students” by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) this fall.
“It’s concerning that multiple schools throughout Fairfax County withheld merit awards from students,” Miyares said in a press release. “My office will investigate the entire Fairfax County Public Schools system to find out if any students were discriminated against and if their rights were violated.”
In a letter to FCPS Superintendent Michelle Reid, Miyares said his office is investigating whether the school system violated the Virginia Human Rights Act’s prohibitions of discrimination based on race, color and national origin.
Reid said she “proactively” alerted the attorney general’s office to the lack of “timely notification” for Westfield and Langley students after it was found by an independent review that the school system initiated last week, according to a message sent to the community yesterday.
“As soon as this new development was confirmed, Westfield and Langley high schools notified all impacted families and their broader respective school communities,” Reid wrote. “Please be aware that FCPS is committed to sharing information that impacts our communities as soon as possible.”
Reid said school staff have been contacting colleges where the affected students applied.
“We are sincerely sorry for this error. Each and every student, their experience and success, remain our priority,” she said.
Initially, the delay at TJ appeared to be “a unique situation due to human error,” Reid said on Wednesday (Jan. 4).
She said then that the attorney general’s investigation will include “a review” of TJ’s admissions policies, which were revised in 2020 in an effort to diversify the magnet school’s student body. A lawsuit arguing that the changes discriminate against Asian students is currently in a federal appeals court.
Notably, the delayed notifications for commended students at TJ were first reported by Asra Nomani, co-founder of the Coalition for TJ, which filed the lawsuit opposing the admissions changes.
The National Merit Scholarship Program recognizes the top 50,000 scorers on the pSAT, a practice standardized test often considered by colleges. Though only a handful of actual scholarships are awarded each year, about 34,000 students get letters of commendations that go out in late September, per the website.
FCPS announced in mid-September that 238 of its students had advanced to the semi-finals. It didn’t mention how many students were commended.
In letters to the Washington Post, local public education advocate Holly Hazard and a former university admissions director argued that Miyares and Gov. Glenn Youngkin — both Republicans — have “wildly overreacted” to the delayed notices, a sentiment echoed by a couple Democratic elected officials.
Amen 👇👇👇👇👇👇👇👇 https://t.co/0anrFR1Gev
— Senator Scott Surovell (@ssurovell) January 5, 2023
“There is nothing to investigate,” state Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36) told FFXnow, noting that information about pSAT scores is available online through the College Board website.
“Fairfax County has the best public schools in Virginia and the Governor and Attorney General are trying to bring their culture war to Fairfax because they’re not willing to invest in public schools or treat our teachers like licensed professionals,” he said in an emailed statement.
The investigation precedes a General Assembly session convening Wednesday (Jan. 11) that will see consideration of a voucher program allowing public funds to be used for private school expenses, among other education-related proposals.
It also kicks off a year where all 12 seats on the Fairfax County School Board — currently held entirely by Democrats — will be up for election.
(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) An outcry stoked by conservative activists over Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) allegedly failing to promptly announce a student academic honor has reached the Virginia governor’s office.
In a letter released this morning (Tuesday), Gov. Glenn Youngkin urged Attorney General Jason Miyares to investigate the Fairfax County magnet school after it reportedly didn’t notify students commended by the National Merit Scholarship Program until after early college applications were due.
“We need to get to the bottom of what appears to be an egregious, deliberate attempt to disadvantage high-performing students at one of the best schools in the country,” Youngkin said. “Parents and students deserve answers and Attorney General Miyares will initiate a full investigation.”
Fairfax County Public Schools says it has initiated a third-party, independent investigation of its own but “stands ready to work with our partners at the state level,” should Miyares decide to pursue a review.
“Our preliminary understanding is that the delay this fall was a unique situation due to human error,” an FCPS spokesperson said. “The investigation will continue to examine our records in further detail and we will share key findings with our community.”
The school system said in a statement on Friday (Dec. 30) that families were notified as soon as the lapse “came to light.” Staff also sent emails and made follow-up calls to each college where the affected students had applied.
“FCPS understands the hard work and dedication of each and every student who competes for college acceptance and scholarship opportunities,” FCPS said. “We remain committed to supporting every student in reaching their full potential.”
The National Merit Scholarship Program recognizes students who receive the highest scores in the country on the preliminary SAT, essentially a practice for the main standardized test considered by most colleges and universities for admissions.
According to the National Merit website, about 50,000 students qualify for the program every year based on an index score calculated by doubling the sum of their reading, writing and math scores.
Notifications are sent out in late September, with about two-thirds of those students being commended and one-third advancing as semi-finalists. Only about 7,250 students win actual scholarships each year.
However, FCPS only announced the school’s semi-finalists in September. Commended students at TJ didn’t learn they had gotten the honor until teachers handed out certificates on Nov. 14, Coalition for TJ co-founder Asra Nomani said in the Fairfax County Times.
The Coalition for TJ sued Fairfax County Public Schools in 2021 over changes to the admissions system that were designed to boost diversity at the magnet school. The lawsuit is currently in a federal appeals court.
Nomani said she learned about the issue from Shawnna Yashar, a member of the Fairfax County Parents Association, which was incorporated in June 2021 by leaders of the Open FCPS campaign that urged schools to reopen early in the pandemic.
Since publishing last Thursday (Dec. 29), Nomani’s story has gotten picked up by several, mostly conservative outlets, including Fox News and the Daily Mail. Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears tweeted on Saturday (Dec. 31) that she had “reached out” to Youngkin and Miyares about a possible investigation.
The Fairfax County Parents Association and other groups have called for TJ principal Ann Bonitatibus to be fired and are planning to hold a rally outside the school this afternoon, according to WUSA9.
FCPS confirmed that Superintendent Michelle Reid is scheduled to meet with families this evening “to listen to their concerns.”
Parent and 11th District Republican Committee Vice Chair Srilekha Palle told WUSA9 she considers the delayed notifications “a criminal act.” Harry Jackson, another Coalition for TJ founder and brief GOP school board candidate hopeful, claimed administrators “wanted to downplay the significance of these awards to students in the name of equity.”
“I believe this failure may have caused material harm to those students and their parents, and that this failure may have violated the Virginia Human Rights Act,” Youngkin said in his letter to Miyares.
The letter doesn’t say how the lack of merit scholarship notifications might violate the Virginia Human Rights Act, which protects individuals from discrimination based on race, religion, sex and other characteristics.
(Updated at 9:30 a.m. on 9/23/2022) With a new school year underway, students will soon jockey for seats in Fairfax County’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ), even as a federal court considers whether its current admission system discriminates against Asians.
For now, thanks to an earlier ruling upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, the upcoming class of 2027 will be determined by the same, much-debated process that has helped diversify the magnet school’s student body over the past two years, FCPS confirmed to FFXnow.
Launching at 4 p.m. on Oct. 24, freshman student applications will consist of a student portrait sheet and a math or science-focused problem-solving essay. Other criteria include a grade point average of 3.5 or higher and consideration of a student’s English language learner, special education, or free/reduced-price lunch status — known as “experience factors.”
Those experience factors and a guarantee that all participating schools get seats equal to 1.5% of their student population are central to a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of policy, which was adopted by the Fairfax County School Board in December 2020.
The revised process — which eliminated a standardized test and application fee — doesn’t explicitly consider race when evaluating students, but a lawyer for the Coalition for TJ argued to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Friday (Sept. 16) that it was designed to boost Black and Latino representation at the expense of Asian applicants.
(Correction: This article previously said oral arguments had taken place on Saturday, Sept. 17)
“That’s clear in the record from the statements that the board members and other senior staff in Fairfax County Public Schools made, that Asian American students were in the way,” Erin Wilcox said to the three-judge panel. “They needed to clear out room to increase the numbers of Black and Hispanic students.”
In February, a U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of the Coalition for TJ, agreeing that the changes amounted to “racial balancing” in violation of the Constitution’s equal protection clause, which prohibits laws from discriminating based on race.
FCPS promptly appealed the decision, maintaining that the policy is race-neutral, as stated in the school board’s adopted resolution, and backed by legal precedent. Donald Verrilli, the school board’s legal representative, cited a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that supported universities taking steps to diversify, ideally without directly looking at race.
“There are no quotas, no targets, no racial preferences of any kind, no racial classifications of any kind, and it is 100% race-blind in its administration,” he said. “No application contains any racially identifying information, so all applicants are judged on a race-blind basis.” Read More
Baby Born at Reston Fire Station Makes Visit — “Today, Station 25, Reston, B-Shift hosted Baby Ivy, who made her entrance into the world in Station 25 parking lot recently, and her big brother, mom and dad. 25-B were thrilled and presented the family w/station shirt/patch. Baby Ivy brought some goodies for the shift!” [FCFRD/Twitter]
TJ Students Reflect on First Year Under New Admissions System — “As the adults did battle in courtrooms, students such as Sarah Castillo were reconsidering their options. Hundreds of students who had neither thought of applying to TJ, nor felt they had a chance of acceptance under the old admissions system, now took the plunge — and some of them, including Sarah, got in.” [The Washington Post]
Burke House Fire Leads to Over $500K in Damages — Smoldering embers dropped in a pile of sawdust ignited a house fire in the 8900 block of Arley Drive on Thursday (May 26) that displaced two people and resulted in $516,075 in damages. Firefighters at the scene saw “heavy fire” through the two-story house’s roof, and one resident got minor injuries. [FCFRD]
Over a Quarter of Primary Mail Ballots Returned — “We’ve had about 28% of #votebymail ballots returned so far in the Democratic primary for the 8th Congressional District. Return your ballot now or #voteearly in person at the Fairfax County Govt. Center” [Fairfax County Office of Elections/Twitter]
West Falls Church Restaurant Closed Permanently — DC Steakholders owners Usman and Lilly Bhatti said in a May 4 message that “inflation, staffing shortages, and rising food costs have taken a toll on our business,” noting that their food trucks and catering business will continue. The restaurant first opened on Arlington Blvd. in April 2019 and served burgers and frozen custard. [Annandale Today]
Reston Food Delivery Business Plans Expansion — “Frolick is a fresh take on food delivery, offering a rotating menu of chef-prepared meals — delivered for now only in Northern Virginia but soon expanding to D.C. and then, perhaps, well beyond…Frolick was born in the summer of 2021 with a big assist from GateGroup, the Swiss-based airline catering giant whose North American headquarters is in Reston.” [DC Inno]
Future Springfield Town Center Hotel Site Sold — “PREIT…announced execution of a purchase and sale agreement for 11 outparcels that will generate gross proceeds in excess of $32 million. The Company also executed an agreement of sale for a vacant parcel at Springfield Town Center set to be developed into a hotel site for $2.5 million as the Company executes on its vision of delivering one-stop destinations for the communities it serves.” [PREIT]
Jefferson Manor Kids Start Pet Directory — “Two sisters in Alexandria, Virginia, created a directory of all the neighborhood pets to raise money for good causes and bring the community together.” There have been 144 different pets submitted to the directory so far. [NBC4]
Free Fishing Day This Weekend — The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources is helping people learn how to fish with an event from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. this Saturday (June 4) at Burke Lake. Equipment and bait are provided, and attendees don’t need to purchase a fishing license. [DWR]
It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 87 and low of 73. Sunrise at 5:47 am and sunset at 8:30 pm. [Weather.gov]