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Sunday, March 26, 2023
FairfaxOpinionLetter: Court ruling on TJ was win for parents, students, community

Letter: Court ruling on TJ was win for parents, students, community

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Editor: I completely agree with the Sun Gazette’s opinion [“Our View: TJ-Admissions Ruling a Win for Equality”].

My son is a first-grader who attends a Fairfax County public achool. I have no idea years from now whether my child will have the aptitude or the interest in applying to attend the prestigious Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology (TJ). But when he is in eighth grade, if he meets the criteria and is interested in applying, he should expect to do so under a level-playing-field process.

I read U.S. District Court Judge Claude Hilton’s decision overturning the revised admissions policy. It is compelling. And the judge’s recent denial of the Fairfax County School Board’s motion for a stay of his decision is wonderful news.

I am astounded that the School Board persists in defending the discriminatory policy. I remain shocked at the ill-advised, clearly unconstitutional path the body took when it radically changed TJ’s admissions policy from a largely merit-based one to one much more focused on which school a student attends during eighth grade.


The School Board knew the change would result in racial balancing at TJ. The board’s approach has been categorically rejected by court decisions in years past. These decisions were binding on the board. But it ignored them.

Its new admissions policy created government-mandated racial balancing (usually unconstitutional) by taking actions that – though they are not literally described as racial balancing – have exactly the same effect as if they were so described. As Judge Hilton notes, the School Board’s revision directly caused the illegal action it wanted to achieve, increasing the levels of other races at TJ by lowering the number of offers made to Asian-American students from 73 percent under the old policy to 54 percent under the new policy.

Judge Hilton described the process the School Board used as “rushed, sloppy and opaque,” and that it was “infected with talk of racial balancing from its inception.” The judge’s examples supporting his assertion are worth reading by anyone who cares about governmental transparency and public input in decision-making.

Judge Hilton noted that the School Board unanimously voted to jettison TJ’s admissions tests at an October 2020 work session (where the public was not notified beforehand that a vote would take place) and no public comment was permitted before the vote.

I applaud the TJ parents who stood up to FCPS by filing their lawsuit. Their defense of equality is inspiring.

The principles these parents fought for are ones that I will impart to my child as he grows up. I will not teach him, on the other hand, that it is a good thing to engage in the kind of subterfuge and disrespect to stakeholders demonstrated by the School Board during the shadowy TJ admissions revision process.

Children who want to apply to TJ are entitled to an admissions process that does not discriminate against applicants by favoring one race over another. Let’s hope that the School Board abandons its tax-dollar-wasting defense of the discriminatory TJ admissions plan it created, and engages in a better process the next time around.

Christopher Gahm, Springfield

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