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Virginia AG grills Fairfax middle school over alleged exclusion of white and Asian students from its college prep program

Photo by Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Virginia attorney general's office blasted a Fairfax County middle school Thursday for allegedly discriminating against white and Asian students in connection with a college preparatory program.

The McLean-based school sent out a letter to parents of eighth-graders, inviting students who would be first in their family to attend college in the U.S.; "Black or African American students"; "Hispanic students, of one or more race"; "students with disabilities"; "English learners"; and "Economically disadvantaged students" to apply for Fairfax County's College Partnership Program, reported the Fairfax Times.

The CPP provides select students with academic counseling, college visits, scholarship application assistance, SAT preparation classes, and other perks.

Christine Lambrou Johnson, Virginia's senior assistant attorney general and chief of the Office of Civil Rights, wrote to the school on Thursday, demanding that the principal "cease and desist the illegal conduct of soliciting and selecting applicants ... based on race, color, and national origin."

Johnson's letter noted that the school was "engaging in conduct in contravention of the Virginia Human Rights Act, Va. Code § 2.2-3900 et seq., Va. Code § 2.2-520 et seq., and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution."

It also noted that educational institutions may not "'refuse, withhold from, or deny any individual, or to attempt to refuse, withhold from, or deny any individual, directly or indirectly, any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, services, or privileges made available in any place of public accommodation, or segregate or discriminate against any such person in the use thereof' on the basis of those protected classes."

Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares said in a corresponding statement, "It's shocking that we continue to find such blatant examples of racial and ethnic discrimination in the Fairfax County Public School System. Every student should be able to apply for the College Partnership Program and have the same opportunities as their peers, regardless of race."

"I demand that Cooper Middle School, its administrators, and anyone involved in this program stop this illegal discrimination immediately," added Miyares.

The AG gave Cooper Middle School seven days to retract and correct its email and to "show they are conducting the application process legally." Failure to do so will result in a lawsuit under the Virginia Human Rights Act.

The Fairfax Times reported that earlier this week, the county's public schools spokeswoman, Kathleen Miller, denied that the program was racist and said it is "open to everyone/anyone."

Despite Miller's suggestion, the program's website lists the following as groups representative of a "typical CPP student":

  • first generation;
  • African-American;
  • American Indian;
  • Alaskan Native;
  • Hispanic;
  • limited English proficient;
  • students with disabilities; and
  • economically disadvantaged.

Again, white and Asian students didn't make the cut.

Glenn Miller, the father and lawyer who obtained the exclusionary letter and shared it with the Fairfax County Times, said, "I'm glad that Attorney General Miyares is investigating this program. There needs to be accountability. The school board needs to be held accountable for these egregious violations of the law."

"As long as Fairfax County Public Schools stubbornly continues to disregard the United States Constitution and violate the civil rights of Fairfax County residents, it is going to continue to find itself the subject of these sorts of inquiries," added Miller. "Right now, Fairfax County Public Schools officials think there is an ‘equity’ exception to the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law. There is no ‘equity’ exception."

Fairfax County Public Schools said in a statement to WSET-TV, "As stated previously, media coverage referencing a ban on certain demographic groups applying to the College Partnership Program is wholly inaccurate. In fact, in School Year 2022-23, 352 Asian students (17.4%) and 176 white students (8.7%) out of a total of 2,018 students were enrolled in the program which is designed to encourage historically underrepresented groups to consider a path to college."

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