Showdown at TJ: How a Virginia High School Became The Latest Battleground Over Racial Discrimination

Below is my column in the Hill on the litigation over the new admissions policy at the elite Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax, Virginia. The school board ended the use of an admissions test in favor of a “holistic approach” to achieve greater diversity at the school. Notably, this week, the board defended its policy before the Supreme Court by insisting that it was not “race balancing” and that the new policy is entirely “race neutral.” However, the board replaced a race-blind, merit-based system for the express purpose of achieving greater diversity. Indeed, one board member declared “in looking at what has happened to George Floyd . . . we must recognize the unacceptable numbers of such things as the unacceptable numbers of African Americans that have been accepted to TJ.”

The Virginia Attorney General (and various other states) have filed to challenge those assertions in a potentially important case that would allow the Court to consider allegedly discriminatory admissions practices and polices not just on the college but the high school levels.

Here is the column:

A small, exclusive public high school in Northern Virginia is emerging this month as a major battleground over free speech and academic integrity. It began with a decision to drop admissions standards to achieve greater diversity, and now there is a fair possibility that this small high school will be the subject of a Supreme Court challenge with far-reaching legal, educational and social implications.

Known as “TJ,” the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax, Va., is routinely ranked as one of the nation’s best public high schools, a feeder school for top universities around the world. It is the source of pride for many of us in the county, a school that was reserved for brilliant students who are able to take extremely advanced courses and perform university-level research.

A couple of years ago, activists objected that TJ was overwhelmingly Asian and white. While admission was based objectively on scholastic performance (including an entrance exam), a group formed to promote dropping such threshold standards to attain greater diversity. They succeeded, and the Fairfax School Board killed the entrance exam, adopting a “holistic review” approach that includes a “student portrait sheet” and consideration of a student’s background as “experience factors.”

Some of the TJ parents opposing the change challenged it in court, and federal judge Claude Hilton ruled in favor of those parents that the new admissions policy was racial discrimination targeting Asian American students. That ruling was stayed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which allowed the school board to continue its new admissions policy. However, the case has attracted the attention of the Supreme Court, which is considering two major college admissions cases, which also allege racial discrimination against Asian students. Chief Justice John Roberts has asked the school district to respond to the discrimination claims and explain why the Court should not add the case to its docket.

The TJ case is important not just to constitutional but educational standards in America. For years, meritocracy itself has been under attack as racist. Even science and mathematics have been declared to be “inherently racist” or “colonized.”

At the same time, school districts are closing gifted and talented programs over their alleged lack of diversity — leaving top-performing students with fewer options in the public school systems. These moves achieve a bizarre equity by eliminating merit-based distinctions and opportunities.

And there is a growing movement to end the use of standardized testing to achieve greater diversity. Last month Cal State dropped standardized testing “to level the playing field” for minority students.

Last year, University of California President Janet Napolitano also caved to this movement. California voters have repeatedly refused to allow the state to engage in affirmative action in admissions. Napolitano then moved to just do away with standardized testing for admissions, which would make admission challenges more difficult while enhancing diversity numbers. She assembled a handpicked Standardized Testing Task Force in 2019 to study the issue, but that task force found the opposite: Standardized testing is the most accurate single indicator of college performance, including for minority students. In other words, it helped students find institutions where they were most likely to thrive. Napolitano thanked the task force and then overrode those conclusions by ending the use of the standardized college tests.

Even the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) seemed to yield to this movement during the pandemic by dropping the use of standardized testing requirements. However, this week, MIT reversed that decision and reinstated the use of the tests as key to preserving its elite status as an educational institution.

MIT has decided to hold firm on the academic standards that made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world; TJ achieved that distinction among high schools by maintaining the same elite entry standards. Now, however, it appears TJ will be “leveled down” to achieve “equity.”

As more advanced programs are eliminated, gifted students will find their own advancement stymied or slowed. Left unchallenged, some will lose interest while others are less likely to achieve the same levels of distinction.

Liberal activists aren’t the only ones celebrating this trend in American education. Foreign competitors like China can only rejoice at seeing the United States decapitate its top academic programs. Our enemies must hope that meritocracy will be replaced by mediocrity in science and other fields as the world economy becomes more and more competitive.

The real loss will be felt by students of all races.

It is possible to achieve diversity in these programs, but it is not as easy — or as fast — as just leveling down entry standards. We can focus on underperforming public schools to better prepare minority students. However, with continuing dismal performances of public educators in major cities, that’s not a welcome approach to many in the education or politics professions. It’s easier to reduce entry standards than it is to elevate performance rates. Indeed, Oregon recently achieved equity in graduation rates by simply suspending the need to be proficient in reading, math, and writing. Done: Instant equity.

The Court’s consideration of admissions challenges at Harvard and the University of North Carolina may bring greater clarity for higher education. However, the same challenged admissions practices are now being implemented in high schools, which serve as the feeders for college admissions. The Court needs to establish its own “holistic approach” and establish a clear and coherent standard for admissions throughout our educational system.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

313 thoughts on “Showdown at TJ: How a Virginia High School Became The Latest Battleground Over Racial Discrimination”

  1. The actions of this school are awful. They help reinforce the perception that We Blacks are unable to compete, academically with other students. The admission standards were lowered to allow the unprepared and unfit access to this school in the name of diversity. I wonder if those responsible for this, allowed entry to whites that had less than acceptable admission scores. W.E . Debois said that 10% of every group are destined to be the doctors, engineers, lawyers extra. MLK did not demand “special” treatment, but rather Equal treatment. As an “Elite” school you should be seeking the Ben Carson’s among us, not
    LeBron James. We can do more than sing, play ball and entertain White folks.
    Your actions shame yourself, and wound us without cause.

  2. I think what we are witnessing is stupidity inbreeding. We have had several generations of ‘relaxing’ standards such that many students graduate high school reading at well below grade level. Teachers can only teach as much as they know, and if they were not taught, they can teach nothing. So each generation of students is more stupid that the predecessor. They are easier to manipulate and easier to oppress, as it is not possible to be self-sufficient without at least a modicum of basic skills. Oppression is the goal of the ruling class, and this goal is well within their grasp.

  3. “Why Johnny Can’t Add” and “The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America” are just two books which attempt to track the deterioration of public education in America over the past roughly 50 years.

  4. Ray Lewis said that if you want to turn a loosing franchise into a winner, you have to change the “Culture” of that franchise. Before these disadvantaged kids reach the class room, things have to change at home.

    1. It’s a total lie that it was “previously swept from the net,” as the full video has been available on CSpan since it was first broadcast in 2014:

      See the AP’s fact check re: the misleading editing in your clip:

      This is why your nickname is Meyer the Troll Liar.

      Here’s the opening of Obama’s speech, but your video only excerpted the parts in italics and pushed them together misrepresent his meaning:
      “Leaders and dignitaries of the European Union, representatives of our NATO alliance, distinguished guests, we meet here at a moment of testing for Europe and the United States and for the international order that we have worked for generations to build.
      “Throughout human history, societies have grappled with fundamental questions of how to organize themselves — the proper relationship between the individual and the state, the best means to resolve inevitable conflicts between states. And it was here in Europe through centuries of struggle, through war and enlightenment, repression and revolution, that a particular set of ideals began to emerge: the belief that through conscience and free will, each of us has the right to live as we choose. The belief that power is derived from the consent of the governed and that laws and institutions should be established to protect that understanding. And those ideas eventually inspired a band of Colonialists across an ocean, and they wrote them into the founding documents that still guide America today, including the simple truth that all men and women are created equal.
      “But those ideals have also been tested, here in Europe and around the world. Those ideals have often been threatened by an older, more traditional view of power. This alternative vision argues that ordinary men and women are too small-minded to govern their own affairs, that order and progress can only come when individuals surrender their rights to an all-powerful sovereign. Often, this alternative vision roots itself in the notion that by virtue of race or faith or ethnicity, some are inherently superior to others, and that individual identity must be defined by us versus them. Or that national greatness must flow not by what people stand for but what they are against.
      “In so many ways, the history of Europe in the 20th century represented the ongoing clash of these two sets of ideas, both within nations and among nations. The advance of industry and technology outpaced our ability to resolve our differences peacefully, and even among the most civilized of societies on the surface, we saw a descent into barbarism. This morning at Flandersfield, I was reminded of how war between peoples sent a generation to their deaths in the trenches and gas of the first World War. And just two decades later, extreme nationalism plunged this continent into war once again with populations enslaved and great cities reduced to rubble and tens of millions slaughtered, including those lost in the Holocaust. It is in response to this tragic history that in the aftermath of World War II, America joined with Europe to reject the darker forces of the past and build a new architecture of peace. …”

      1. Anonymous the Stupid, I already posted the more extended portion of the video. That is the problem of not waiting until the fog clears. That is how you became entrapped in the Steele Dossier, the Russia Hoax and the Ukraine garbage, and countless other things. I posted this as quickly as possible and then checked the blog to find that you already found the difficulty.

        That is the difference between you and me. When I find I am wrong, I immediately post my mistake and provide the correct information. You are different. You have yet to apologize for any of your significant errors that have been debunked.

        Because I am willing to correct a premature posting immediately, I maintain my truthfulness. You are the opposite and are known as a liar and deceiver.

        1. Meyer, you should have checked your misleading video before you posted it and lied that it was “This 21-second video previously swept from the net.”

          You claim “I posted this [the more extended portion of the video] as quickly as possible” when that clearly isn’t true. You posted your original comment at 6:58pm, I pointed out your lie at 7:39pm and gave both a link to the entire speech AND a relevant transcript, and you didn’t post your Youtube link until over an hour after your original comment and almost a half-hour after mine, at 8:05pm. Even then you could not bring yourself to say “I posted a link to a misleadingly-edited clip and wrongly claimed that it hadn’t been available.”

          As usual, you don’t provide any shred of evidence for your allegations about me.

          1. “Meyer, you should have checked your misleading video before you posted it and lied that it was “This 21-second video previously swept from the net.”

            I errantly posted too early, but considering I had just written about Biden’s policies causing tens of thousands of deaths in Ukraine, I was too hot. That seldom happens, but when there are so many deaths due to policies of jerks like you, I didn’t think twice when I heard the video since it seems so true today.

            I got the post from Twitter and posted all the information I had at the time. Since then, Twitter has added a link to that video, and that is how I found out what had happened.

            I am sorry I posted something out of context, but that happens, even to the best. However, I correct my mistakes as soon as I recognize them, as I did here.

            There is no way I can prove the timeline. When I saw the video, I immediately corrected it on the blog. I did that before thoroughly viewing the video. I then checked to make sure that no one on the blog was misinformed and posting messages that would also be wrong.

            There was nothing else I could do. However, you could have done a lot with all your lies about the Russia Hoax, The Steele Dossier, Flynn, Ukraine, and many other things. You perpetuated your lies. You continued perpetuating the lies by twisting the facts.

            You are deceitful and a liar. Anyone can see that in the blog’s archives, but I forget, you call yourself anonymous so that you can deny anything and credit yourself after the fact with anything said by a generic alias.

            I apologize to all on the list.

            1. “I got the post from Twitter and posted all the information I had at the time.”

              You had the information in the video in the tweet that you posted, just like I did. You simply didn’t bother to transcribe a few words from the video to check.

              All it took me was a few seconds to type Obama ordinary men and women are too small-minded and find the AP fact-check (plenty of other reporting about it), which links to the full CSpan video.

              You say “Since then, Twitter has added a link to that video, and that is how I found out what had happened.”

              I didn’t need any information from Twitter to know how — and why — to look up the actual speech.

              “I correct my mistakes as soon as I recognize them”

              So do I.

              The problem is: you often shut your eyes and ears to your mistakes, so you never recognize that you’re mistaken.

              For the record, you still haven’t corrected your false conclusion “Don’t let anyone tell you that Democrats believe in individual freedom,” when Obama’s speech was lauding the idea “that through conscience and free will, each of us has the right to live as we choose. The belief that power is derived from the consent of the governed and that laws and institutions should be established to protect that understanding.”

              “You are deceitful and a liar.”

              You continue to project your own faults onto others.

              1. Anonymous the Stupid, I don’t know what you are fighting about. I posted the address to the same Twitter message I saw. To see the video, one had everything I had right in front of them. Everything was transparent.

                You are so hard-up to prove yourself right (you are almost always wrong) that you have lost all reason. I agreed that the video was out of context and when I learned that, I corrected my mistake. Like a child, you consider this the biggest victory ever. You are a nut.

                I am waiting for you to admit your mistakes about Russia, Ukraine, the Steele Dossier, etc. Will you do so? Of course not. Why? Because you use deceit, and you lie.You are not a credible person.


              2. I have not bothered to check most of the details of your rant.

                I am never interested in claims that some fact checker agrees with you – that is a fallacious appeal to authority.

                But the gist of your argument seems to be that Obama once said something that constitutes support for individual liberty.

                I do not know if your quote is accurate – it does not matter.

                The words you cited – if said by Obama are entirely at odds with his actions.

                Individual liberty is not just words, it is a meaningful construct, as is free will.

                They have immutable logical consequences. They are not something you just pay lip service to.

                You can tell whether people beleive what they say when they act on what they have said.

                I do not agree with Trump on many issues – but I trust him – because to a very large extent, to an incredible extent for a politician, he does what he says.

                1. “the gist of your argument seems to be that Obama once said something that constitutes support for individual liberty.”

                  No, John, the gist of my argument is that Meyer lied when he claimed that the video was “previously swept from the net,” he didn’t bother to check the misleadingly edited video clip before he posted it as fake evidence for a ridiculous opinion, then lied that he’d “posted this [the more extended portion of the video] as quickly as possible,” and regularly projects his own faults onto others.

                  1. “No, John, the gist of my argument is that Meyer lied when he claimed that the video was “previously swept from the net,”

                    Anonymous the Stupid, you either know what the word lie means or don’t. If you don’t know, then everything you have said about lies from conservatives (Trump included) is meaningless. If you know the meaning of the word lie, you are lying right now.

                    I didn’t lie. I believed and errantly repeated what someone else said. That wasn’t very reasonable of me because Obama’s out-of-context audio was too good to be true. It represented how Biden is acting today and how Obama wanted to act before. To be clear, this is my opinion, so don’t call my opinion a lie.

                    I admitted my mistake, and it bothers me that you don’t accept yours (Russia, Ukraine, etc.). That, without question, tells the world you are a liar. Thank you for proving the point I mostly make when I respond to you.

                    Anyone with common sense or reasonable intelligence would recognize that all my claims were based on a single Tweet that I corrected very quickly. I have a reputation for honesty, something you do not have and never will have.

                    “he didn’t bother to check the misleadingly edited video clip before he posted it as fake evidence”

                    You complain, yet that is what you do all the time. You don’t check on the data. You accept a negative portrayal of conservatives as fact even when there is no data. You do so with such abandon and frequency that everyone can easily recognize you for the liar you are.

                    When I criticize you, which is often based on fact or opinion or the fact that you are lying, copying material you have not read, linking to the material you have not read, or simply making a fool of yourself.

                    So far, except for John, who criticized your opinions, no one seems interested in the video or the error I made. Instead, they see your rantings as more of the same coming from Anonymous the Stupid.

                    1. I admit my actual mistakes, Meyer.

                      For example, I admitted that I was mistaken to have called Ashli Babbitt a “stupid woman”:

                      And I have no problem saying that I jumped to conclusions that you lied when you claimed that the video was “previously swept from the net,” when apparently you believed and repeated a false claim from someone else without ever having bothered to check whether it was true before repeating it. My mistake: you didn’t lie, you were simply too lazy to check.

                      Your problem is that you want me to admit I’m mistaken about things that you allege but cannot even link to (e.g., where you say “you don’t accept yours (Russia, Ukraine, etc.”). Another example of your laziness.

                      “That, without question, tells the world you are a liar.”

                      No, it tells us that you like to allege things without providing proof that they’re true.

                      “I have a reputation for honesty”

                      You don’t.

                      “Anonymous the Stupid.”

                      You are the one and only Anonymous the Stupid.

                    2. “For example, I admitted that I was mistaken to have called Ashli Babbitt a “stupid woman”:

                      That is so nice Anonymous the Stupid. If only you would recognize Ashli’s death was unnecessary since being unarmed and the room only with police officers that this tiny woman was shot dead with her hands and feet in total view.

                      I guess, with you, we have to go one step at a time until you finally recognize the difference between the death of George Floyd and that of Ashli Babbitt. Until then, you can maintain your hypocrisy as you do when one sees your mind spinning out of control over things like the Russia Hoax and the Steele Dossier.

                  2. “No, John, the gist of my argument is that Meyer lied when he claimed that the video was “previously swept from the net,” he didn’t bother to check the misleadingly edited video clip before he posted it as fake evidence for a ridiculous opinion, then lied that he’d “posted this [the more extended portion of the video] as quickly as possible,” and regularly projects his own faults onto others.”

                    How does the claim deceptively edited differ from what I claimed your argument was ?

                    Meyer’s clip is not “fake” – can you get your arguments right ?

                    I really do not what to dwell on that clip – or Obama – as you can search the web and find him holding near any position that you wish.
                    The same is true of most democrats, and some republicans.

                    If Meyer did not use the best evidence for his claim – that is not the same as a false claim.

                    Nor am I interested in a debate about how quickly Meyer corrected the error regarding the clip.

                    Regardless, words have meaning. An error and a LIE are not the same thing. Posting a deceptively edited clip is only a Lie if you edited it or if you know it has been edited to change its meaning.

                    Meyer corrected an error, not a lie.

                    Good for him.

                    When have you corrected anything ?

    2. My feelings remain the same, but this Twitter video may be out of context. I am reviewing the video of a longer portion of the speech at:

      The relevant part in dispute starts a little after 3:30

      I am sorry for not giving a bit of time to clear away the fog.

  5. Here it is:
    Why the sudden wokeism?
    Progressiveness was suppose to be this great and grand ideal. Where everyone goes onto great success under progressiveness cultism!
    But when the numbers did not reflect their vision, well, then it is due to systematic racism! From mathematics, to English, to history.
    Dare to question their narrative?
    Oh, woe is oh no! To put meritocracy ahead of woke mediocrity? Then you are inherently white racist, even if you are Asian or Indian and oppose being discriminated against for good grades and a good work ethic.

    Wokeism, the third greatest threat to American after Putin, and Biden.

  6. AS you can image, Federal Funding Subsidies are quite influential for State and Local Educational Organizations.

    The Department of Education – DOE to Consider ‘Equity’ as Part of Decisions on Project Grants

    The Department of Education revealed in a recent report that it will consider grant applications, in part, based on how “equity” is incorporated into grant proposals.

    The “2022 Agency Equity Plan related to Executive Order 13985,” published Thursday, is part of one of President Joe Biden’s first executive orders, the “Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.” …

    … “[DOE’s] stated mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access,” the report read. “To fulfill this mission, the agency must embed equity throughout its operations and mission to meet the needs of every learner. Under the Secretary’s leadership, the Department has established strategic priorities based on feedback obtained directly from those whom we serve: children and students of all ages, educators in all roles, parents and families, and their communities.”

    The report also explained that the plan is “Consistent with the priorities of the Biden-Harris Administration” and that the DOE “has and is focused on strengthening the agency’s processes, policies, strategies, and culture to ensure equity is the foundation upon which all decisions and protocols rest, and to strengthen the agency’s work and build on its impact.” …

    It is reasonable to think that ‘Compliance’ with the DOE’s strategies (mandate) are related to Grant Funding.
    Wherefore the challenge will be bestowed upon the Educational Institution’s Administrators to bring the ‘Equity’ into compliance.

    In this case to burdens fall to Those whom are under the arm of the FCPS Director of Curriculum:

    Fairfax County School’s:
    Chief Academic Officer,
    Asst. Superintendent, Instructional Services Department,
    Asst. Superintendent, Special Services,
    Asst. Superintendent, Department of School Improvement and Supports,
    Office of Assessment and Reporting,

    Superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools
    Michelle Reid, Ed.D.
    (The) Fairfax County School Board

    Time will tell if this is realistic and fruitful in developing young minds into the Intellectual-Cream-of-the-Crop and Intercultural-Cream-of-the-Crop,
    the United States so badly needs.

    The Countries With The Most STEM Graduates [Infographic]
    STEM is an abbreviation for; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

    🐇 Happy Easter Ya’ll

    1. China is Fast Outpacing U.S. STEM PhD Growth
      (CSET – Center for Security and Emerging Technology, August 2021)

      CSET – Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.

      About Us
      A policy research organization within Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, CSET produces data-driven research at the intersection of security and technology, providing nonpartisan analysis to the policy community. CSET is currently focusing on the effects of progress in artificial intelligence (AI), advanced computing and biotechnology. We seek to prepare a new generation of decision-makers to address the challenges and opportunities of emerging technologies.

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