The state Attorney General’s Office has launched an investigation into allegations of discriminatory admissions practices at the Academies of Loudoun and systemic racism in the school system at large, after a
Loudoun NAACP President Michelle Thomas said the organization reached out to the AG’s office after the school district was sluggish to respond to complaints from parents, and even to share the results of its own equity assessment, which found a “hostile learning environment” where students faced no consequences for hateful actions.
“We’ve produced plans for them, we’ve produced solutions for them, and they have implemented it in the halfhearted way,” Thomas said during a press conference Tuesday evening. “When that happens, it creates a strain on the partnership because our best intentions never become realized.”
The school system had not previously disclosed the investigation. The letter informing the school division of the investigation is dated Oct. 3, more than a month before the NAACP’s press conference.
“The question is, what are we going to do?” Thomas said. “It’s fine that they’re investigating. We know what they’re going to find. … That there’s discrimination, it’s rampant—it’s not just rampant, it’s systemic.”
Loudoun NAACP Education Chairwoman Robin Reaves Burke said data she has collected shows that black students are underrepresented in the gifted and talented program, and are less likely to be put into the pipeline to attend the Academies of Loudoun.
“The admission process of 2018-2019 stated they were going to implement a holistic approach to admissions, and what we are finding through the data is that that wasn’t the case,” Burke said. “Students were essentially ranked by test score”—tests, she said, that have been shown to be racially biased.
“This is not a divisive issue,” said Loudoun NAACP Vice President Amanda Tandy. “This is an inclusive issue. We’re not talking about somebody else’s kids, we’re talking about Loudoun County’s kids. So, it’s very important that we see that as fixing a situation that impacts all of our children.”
Thomas said her own daughter had experienced racist treatment at Belmont Ridge Middle School when a male student put pencil lead on his finger, said “I’m black now, I can use the n-word,” and started repeating the racial epithet.
And she called on parents to share their own children’s stories of discriminatory treatment with the Loudoun NAACP, by emailing education@LoudounNAACP.org and by attending a town hall meeting at Riverside High School Library at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14. She said there, attendees will also help come up with solutions.
“There will be no complaints given to the school system without a solution,” Thomas said. “You cannot expect those who have oppressed you for years to come up with solutions that will set you free.”
The school system issued a prepared statement in response to media inquiries, writing that administrators are cooperating fully with the investigation. According to that statement, the school system has also provided the Attorney General’s Office with a partial response already, but did not provide the contents of that response.