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School Board Members in Virginia County Admit Anti-Asian Bias in School Admissions Standards

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Text messages between school board members in Fairfax County, Virginia, observed that a sense of anti-Asian bias seemed to motivate a change in admissions standards at a prestigious public high school, according to evidence admitted in a federal lawsuit.

According to a Washington Free Beacon report from Friday, the text conversation was obtained for the suit by a parents’ group against Fairfax County Public Schools regarding admissions policies designed to increase black and Hispanic enrollment at the elite Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.

Fairfax County and its equity policies were at the center of several high-profile controversies during the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election campaign — and school board meetings often turned into contentious affairs. (We covered them at The Western Journal — and we’ll always be in the corner of parents who demand public schools where academic excellence, not wokeness, is the prime objective. You can help us in our fight by subscribing.)

The conversations in question were between Fairfax County Public School board members Abrar Omeish and Stella Pekarsky, both of whom were dubious about the new “equitable” admissions practices instituted by superintendent Scott Brabrand.

Brabrand had instituted the new policies after former Virginia Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam called for schools to produce “diversity reports,” which critics say led to the superintendent overseeing “a gutting” of admissions policies to the school in October of 2020, abandoning an entrance exam and basing admissions around racial quotas.

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This included limiting the number of Asian-American pupils that could be sent from the schools which feed students to Thomas Jefferson — three of which are heavily Asian-American in makeup — to what U.S. News and World Report ranks as the nation’s number one high school.

Asian parents said the move was racist and sued, alleging anti-Asian discrimination — and it turns out they weren’t wrong, at least judging by the text messages between Omeish and Pekarsky.

In a message from the fall of 2020 obtained by the parents’ group Coalition for TJ, Pekarsky said the proposal “will whiten our schools and kick [out] Asians. How is that achieving the goal of diversity?”

“I mean there has been an anti asian feel underlying some of this, hate to say it lol,” Omeish responded.

Can 'equity' initiatives in our public schools become racist?

“Of course it is,” Pekarsky said. “It’s about making a political point.”

Asians, Omeish said, are “discriminated against in this process too.”

“I know, and Scott [Brabrand] has made it obvious,” Pekarsky responded.

According to documents obtained in the lawsuit, administrators were discussing changes for months behind closed doors before December’s “gutting” of Thomas Jefferson’s admissions practices.

The way the schools went about this was by adding “experience points” to each student’s application.

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In a September 2020 email from Jeremy Shughart, head of admissions at Thomas Jefferson, he asked the district’s chief operating officer, “Could you look specifically at the table for ‘Experience Factors’ and provide us a review of our current weighting and whether or not this would be enough to level the playing field for our historically underrepresented groups.”

In a deposition, Shughart said regarding underrepresented groups that “the students that were lower would have been black and Hispanic.”

The emails showed administrators nakedly talking about how many “experience factor” points they needed to get the racial makeup they wanted. “Can we go back and look at points—would 200 points be a game changer,” Brabrand asked in an Oct. 6, 2020 email.

Even still, Omeish and Pekarsky weren’t too pleased at how he was handling it: “Brabrand believes in getting attention. This is how he screwed up TJ and the Asians hate us,” Pekarsky said. “I thought he was just dumb and too white to [get] it,” Omeish responded.

The exchange happened after Brabrand went off during a virtual town hall meeting in August of 2020, accusing the parents of the primarily Asian student body at Thomas Jefferson of spending “thousands and thousands of dollars” to ace the exam.

However, school board member Rachna Sizemore Heizer defended Brabrand in another text obtained through the lawsuit, saying that, “If anything I think he’s trying to be responsive to the times – BLM and a superprogressive board.”

Another school board member tried to sell the changes by attempting to “reframe the discussion” to insist Fairfax County Public Schools was “not eliminating merit but rather reframing our understanding of merit.”

Whatever the case, the school district was only 50 percent successful in its goals. Under the new admissions policies, there were 16 percent fewer Asian students admitted. However, 43 percent more white students were admitted, which isn’t usually the outcome you hear when liberals talk about equity.

Harry Jackson — parent of a black student at Thomas Jefferson and the first black president of the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association before he resigned after a clash over the policies — said the policies were a “targeted hit” on Asian-American students under the guise of diversity.

“It was absolutely motivated by anti-Asian racism,” Jackson told the Free Beacon, adding school board members “were willing to sacrifice the community they said they would help.”

But then, that’s how it always is — equity moves in public schools are more about appearing to help a community than actually helping them. In this case, parents had every reason to sue the schools. Let’s hope the courts see these admissions policies as what they are: craven racism that sacrificed students’ futures in the name of wokeness.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Birthplace
Morristown, New Jersey
Education
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture




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