The Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) system has responded to Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares’ demands for it to cease its “illegal discrimination” against Asian and white students.
An FCPS email sent to Cooper Middle School parents, as well as other FCPS parents, earlier this month appeared to exclude Asian and white students by only inviting “Black or African American students” and “Hispanic students, of one or more races” to apply to its College Partnership Program, as first shared publicly by the Fairfax County Times on Monday.
Some of the services offered through the program include academic counseling, college experiences and college and scholarship application assistance.
The Fairfax County Times report further noted that “American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander” students were excluded in the email.
Responding to the report, FCPS spokesperson Kathleen Miller told the Fairfax County Times on Wednesday that it was “wholly inaccurate” to conclude that Asian and white students were intentionally excluded.
“No group of students has been banned. This program is open to everyone/anyone, as has always been indicated on our website,” Miller added.
On Thursday, Miyares’ office sent a letter addressed to Cooper Middle School’s principal Lisa Barrow.
The letter was signed by Senior Assistant Attorney General Christine Lambrou Johnson.
Johnson, who is also the head of Virginia’s Office of Civil Rights, noted that the program invitation violates the Va. Code § 2.2-3900 er seg., Va. Code $ 2.2-520 et seq. and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Virginia’s Code § 2.2-3900, also known as the Virginia Human Rights Act, was implemented to safeguard individuals from being discriminated against based on their race, color, religion, national origin and gender identity, among others, “in places of public accommodation, including educational institutions and in real estate transactions.”
Under Virginia’s Code $ 2.2-520, all individuals must be given equal opportunities regardless of race, color, religion and gender identity, among others. The code also prohibits “discriminatory practices with respect to employment, places of public accommodation, including educational institutions, and real estate transactions by any person or group of persons.”
“It appears that Cooper Middle School is soliciting and selecting applicants to the College Partnership Program based on race, color, and national origin,” Johnson wrote. “Please cease and desist the illegal conduct of soliciting and selecting applicants to the College Partnership Program based on race, color, and national origin.”
In the letter, Johnson demanded Cooper Middle School to provide evidence that it had already retracted the email sent on March 1 and that the school is processing its application for the College Partnership Program “in a non-discriminatory and legal manner.”
Johnson gave the school six business days to cooperate. If the institution fails to do so by March 17, the Senior Assistant Attorney General noted the office “intends to open an investigation” under Va. Code § 2.2-520(C): § 2.2-3907.
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.
Several parents celebrated the latest development in the case, including Glenn Miller, a father who shared the email to the Fairfax County Times on Monday.
“I’m glad that Attorney General Miyares is investigating this program,” Miller told the Fairfax County Times. “There needs to be accountability. The school board needs to be held accountable for these egregious violations of the law.”
FCPS responded to the attorney general’s claim in a statement released hours after Miyares’ office sent out the letter, reiterating that the Fairfax County Times report was “wholly inaccurate.”
FCPS explained in its statement to ABC13 that out of the 2,018 students enrolled in the program during the 2022-2023 school year, 352 of them (17.4%) were Asian students and 176 (8.7%) were white students.
We are disappointed that no one from the Office of the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia contacted Fairfax County Public Schools to check on the authenticity of these reports. Instead, false and damaging public accusations against Cooper Middle School have been made. Publishing false narratives like this undermine public school efforts to boost U.S. educational achievement.
The recent scandal came as U.S. officials found that at least 16 schools in northern Virginia had delayed giving merit awards to their students in time for college scholarship and admissions deadlines.