A group of anti-critical race theory candidates this week won seats on the governing body of the nation’s top high school after campaigning against the school’s racially driven admissions practices.
As part of the district’s push for diversity and inclusion, Fairfax County Public Schools scrapped the admissions test for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in October, and two months later, adopted a quota system to boost black and Hispanic enrollment numbers. A slate of four candidates opposed to the school’s recent embrace of "equity" won seats on Thomas Jefferson’s Parent Teacher Student Association.
Activists who wanted to eliminate Thomas Jefferson’s test requirement also pushed for implementing "antiracism" and critical race theory-based initiatives district-wide, according to a series of emails uncovered in December. President-elect Harry Jackson, the first black man to lead the association, told the Washington Free Beacon that if left unchecked, critical race theory will tear communities apart.
"It's teaching that white people are inherently racist," Jackson told the Free Beacon, "teaching that other children are there to oppress you. This is not the way to go."
Parents across the country have organized against schools’ embrace of "woke" standards and practices. Anti-critical race theory candidates have won school board seats in two Dallas suburbs. Parents in Indiana criticized one school district’s promotion of racially divisive resources, including works from "antiracism" scholar Ibram X. Kendi and an article on how white women play a "role in racial (in)justice."
Coalition for TJ, a nonpartisan group of parents opposed to the district’s leftward sprint, supported Jackson. They also backed Jun Wang, Himanshu Verma, and Hanning Chen, who were elected second vice president, treasurer, and corresponding secretary, respectively. Fairfax County Public Schools did not reply to the Free Beacon’s request for comment in time for publication.
The Fairfax County School Board made headlines in October when they eliminated the STEM-focused high school’s merit-based entrance exam. The board set a cap on the number of students that could attend Thomas Jefferson from each of the district’s middle schools, in an attempt to boost black and Hispanic enrollment.
Coalition for TJ sued the district over the change, which the group claimed would reduce the number of Asian-American students in the incoming freshman class by 42 percent. The three Fairfax middle schools known to feed students to Thomas Jefferson have predominantly Asian-American populations.
Prestigious high schools from New York City to San Francisco have eliminated their entrance exams over the past six months, citing concerns with "equity." New York mayor Bill de Blasio (D.) in March scrapped admissions tests for many of New York City’s selective middle and high schools. The city’s education department has argued that such exams are used to exclude black and Latino students.
Lowell High School, a STEM magnet school in San Francisco, nixed their test in February. The school board’s resolution declared that the admissions exam "perpetuates the culture of white supremacy and racial abuse toward black and Latinx students."
Eliminating admissions tests is a crucial component of the push for critical race theory in schools, Asra Nomani, vice president of Parents Defending Education and a member of Thomas Jefferson's PTSA, told the Free Beacon.
"Now we can see with [Thomas Jefferson], Lowell, and other high schools in critical theory, part of that is eliminating race-blind admissions tests," Nomani, who also founded Coalition for TJ, said.
Jackson told the Free Beacon he believes Fairfax County Public Schools fails to provide students at all of the district’s middle schools with the opportunities and support necessary to achieve. Eliminating the race-blind admissions process and "ranking kids by race" not only pits peers against each other, but "completely circumvents the black and Hispanic children already in the pipeline," he said.
Eliminating the admissions test was not the only push for "equity" at the high school. Thomas Jefferson principal Ann Bonitatibus in June sent an email asking parents to "check their privilege." In March, teachers showed one class at Thomas Jefferson a film featuring Marxist activist Angela Davis, as well as a slideshow presentation that claimed Thomas Jefferson High’s "lack of diversity … has perpetuated microaggressions and casual racism."
Thomas Jefferson is a minority-majority high school. Asian Americans make up roughly 70 percent of the student population. Black, Hispanic, and other minorities comprise about 10 percent of the school’s population. The other 20 percent are white.
Voters in Fairfax County, Va., largely oppose teaching critical race theory in public schools, according to a survey released Friday. That survey also found that parents oppose eliminating advanced math classes until 11th grade, a recent effort proposed by the Virginia Department of Education in the name of "equity."
Fairfax County parent Rory Cooper said he's glad that parents are standing up for their children, as district officials have shown themselves to be "incapable" of removing politics from their role as school leaders.
"I'm happy to see parents fighting for their children, fighting against political interests—and winning. The Fairfax school board and [S]uperintendent [Scott Braband] have proven themselves to be incapable of separating their political agendas from the fair administration of the school district, harming deserving minority children of a place in a school they earned," Cooper told the Free Beacon. "These are our schools and our kids, and parents should never stop fighting for them."
Jackson will remain president-elect for the first year of his term before replacing Bonnie Qin as president of the PTSA. He said that his election proves, despite what his opponents say, that Thomas Jefferson High School is not racist.
"Thanks to the Thomas Jefferson community for the election and your faith in me, and demonstrating that Thomas Jefferson is not a racist institution," Jackson told the Free Beacon. "It's a diverse community of students, teachers, parents, and staff, and I look forward to working with all of them."