AG Finds Racial ‘Discriminatory Impact’ in Academies Admissions Policies

An investigation into admissions policies at the Academies of Loudoun by Attorney General Mark Herring’s Division of Human Rights has found they had a discriminatory impact on Black and Hispanic students, backing up assertions by the Loudoun NAACP when it requested the investigation.

The investigation was launched in last 2019 after a request by the Loudoun NAACP, alleging discriminatory admissions policies at the Academies of Loudoun. The School Board has also launched an overhaul of the admissions policies at the Academies of Loudoun in August, prompted by those same complaints and ongoing work to address the racial gap in the Academy of Science and the Academy of Engineering and Technology, which together make up the Academies of Loudoun.

The Attorney General’s determination, dated Nov. 18 and released Friday, Nov. 20, found in part that while the school district’s admission policies were on their face neutral, they nonetheless resulted in the “disproportionate adverse impact on Black/African-American and Hispanic/Latinx students” evident on the relatively few numbers of minority students at the school district’s magnet programs.

“Nothing is taken in account until you pass certain tests that are biased in its nature,” said Loudoun NAACP President Michelle Thomas during press conference outside the school administration building Friday. “So that is how you can look on paper as if it is not discriminatory, but when you start taking the steps and following the application process, you realize that you are actually left out of the game. And the results are the same, year after year: You can’t get in.”

The letter points to the underrepresentation of minority students in the Academies, and examples of high-accomplishing Black and Hispanic students who nonetheless were denied entry to the programs. In the first year of the Academies of Loudoun, Black students made up about 7% of students in the school system, but only about 3% of applicants to the Academies and only 0.37% of accepted students—just a single Black student.

The disparity was even wider among Hispanic students, who made up about 18 percent of the division’s student body, but only 3.96% of applicants and 3.18% of enrolled students at the Academies. And despite some steps taken to reduce the race gap in Academies admissions in their third year, the disparity actually grew worse among Hispanic students.

The report also backed up the NAACP assertion that while the school division was aware of the racial disparities, it was sluggish to act, showing “deliberate indifference” to those differences for the first two years. And it said there is work to be done on new school system policy statements calling for diversity and inclusion.

“While the Division [of Human Rights] finds that LCPS is endeavoring to establish systems that eliminate the patterns and practices that led to the Division’s inquiry, and to prevent such acts from happening in the future, it remains to be seen how these plans are implemented in practice, how progress is measured, and whether these efforts will be effective and sufficient,” the determination reads.

“We must understand the historic nature of this finding, not just in a sense that it is another piece of documentation that we have of the lived and shared experience of being discriminated against at the hands of LCPS for over 80 years,” Thomas said Friday afternoon. “But this now shows that the words of Dr. Martin Luther King [are] true.”

The Loudoun NAACP holds a press conference outside the school administration building Friday, Nov. 20 after a report by the Attorney General’s Division of Human Rights found Academies of Loudoun admissions practices had a racially discriminatory impact. [Renss Greene/Loudoun Now]

She referred to King’s speech at the National Cathedral in 1968, in which he said “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

“Today there is a bend in LCPS’s systemic racism towards justice,” Thomas said. “Today there’s a bend. It’s not over, it’s just a bend. It’s not final, it’s just a bend. We have a ways to go in our conciliation agreement, but there is a bend with this determination.”

The determination lays out a series of actions the school system must now take, many within the next 60 days. Those include sending a letter to all students and parents informing them of the findings; partnering with community stakeholders including the Loudoun NAACP to develop new policies and procedures; submit to the Attorney General’s office for review new Equal Employment Opportunity policies and complaint resolution policies for students; and within the next two years hire a third-party consultant to assist in monitoring and assessing the school division’s progress.

The Loudoun NAACP’s list of requests is longer, and include things like a merit-based lottery system for admissions, a STEM-based elementary after-school and summer programs focused on African-American studies, a new public charter school with a focus on African-American studies, funding for the NAACP scholarship fund, revisions to curriculum and textbooks, a scholarship fund for students who were unable to attend the Academies due to discriminatory admissions practices, and other steps.

“The hard work starts now, of implementation and oversight,” Thomas said. “Anybody can say they will on paper, but what they’ll do in actuality, and what they’ll do in practice, we must begin to inspect rather than expect.”

And with Loudoun County Public Schools soon to be looking for a new superintendent, Thomas said the Loudoun NAACP hopes to be part of that process.

“Given the terms of conciliation that are on the table, that superintendent must be well versed in this finding, and so we want to make sure that the superintendent [who] comes in doesn’t get to hide behind, ‘I didn’t know,’” Thomas said. “Ignorance is no excuse of the law. This is now the law.”

A statement from Loudoun County Public Schools Public Information Officer Wayde Byard said the school system is reviewing the report.

“LCPS also will continue to implement its Action Plan to Combat Racism and other affirmative initiatives already underway across the division,” Byard stated.

Download the full report here.

11 thoughts on “AG Finds Racial ‘Discriminatory Impact’ in Academies Admissions Policies

  • 2020-11-20 at 4:46 pm
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    Of course he did. Herring is still trying to atone for appearing in black-face. Nothing necessarily to do with the merits of the case though.

  • 2020-11-20 at 5:23 pm
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    Does this mean the Academies will not have an admissions exam lowering the bar for everyone?

    “The Loudoun NAACP’s list of requests is longer, and include things like … a STEM-based elementary after-school and summer programs focused on African-American studies, a new public charter school with a focus on African-American studies, funding for the NAACP scholarship fund, revisions to curriculum and textbooks, a scholarship fund for students who were unable to attend the Academies due to discriminatory admissions practices, and other steps.”

    I assume the NAACP will be paying for its laundry list from its own fund raising efforts and not taxpayer dollars.

  • 2020-11-20 at 6:24 pm
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    This is racist. We have the NAACP telling us that skin color matters when applying for admission.

    Here is what the Academy requires:

    ➢ Official Student Transcript from school registrar in a sealed envelope.
    ➢ End-of-Year 2019-2020 Report Card from school registrar in sealed envelope.
    ➢ No other documents or information will be accepted.
    ➢ Additionally, finalists will be required to submit an official 2020-2021 Semester-1 report card.

    Admission is based on MERIT, but the usual crowd is now requiring that merit be disregarded .

    Herring has NO credibility as he is still trying to recover from his black face photo.

    The headline for this story is wrong. Reverse discrimination is alive and well.

  • 2020-11-20 at 8:33 pm
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    Michelle Thomas doesn’t want equality for people of color, she wants special treatment- THAT is a huge difference. True equality would mean being treated like everyone else and having the same things expected of you so say goodbye to all those special programs and grading curves, but that’s not the case- Mrs. Thomas and the NAACP want special treatment and lowered standards or flat out quotas. I personally think all college and academy admissions should be a blind application process- no names, no races, religions or other information as that would be a truly equal process.

    • 2020-11-21 at 9:30 am
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      I soooo totally agree. I have felt for years that the lical NAACP doesn’t want equality, they want preferential treatment. The pendulum has swung way too far and people are so afraid to appear “racist” that they are afraid to step up.

  • 2020-11-21 at 8:22 am
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    Before a student is selected to attend the Academies of Loudoun they have to take an admission test. The test does not ask you race, sex or religion. Students are admitted based on the test results. If the NAACP wanted to some good they would tutor students to prepare them for the test so they would get it on their academic merit not what race they are. Admitting a student because of their race in unacceptable for the school is setting them up for failure. Fours years from now the NAACP will be complaining their students are not graduating and it is the Academies of Loudoun’s fault. Giving someone preference because of their skin color will not bring the community together it will further enhance the racial divide which ironically is not what the NAACP’s mission. Perhaps they should think things out before they speak. One last point, I do not see any non black people on the NAACP Loudoun Chapter’s board. If your goal is remove racism why are there not any non black members??

  • 2020-11-21 at 9:50 am
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    The Pastor who took the Devil’s silver is getting her payback.

  • 2020-11-21 at 12:54 pm
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    Renss, you are better than this. If you don’t understand the logical holes in a document, ask somebody that does. Note that would NOT be anybody associated with the NAACP.

    On page 35 of the report, it references the relevant cases for illegal disparate impact. Specifically, in Griggs v Duke Power (the controlling case for giving tests like those for ACL), SCOTUS said ” Nothing in the Act precludes the use of testing or measuring procedures; obviously they are useful. What Congress has forbidden is giving these devices and mechanisms controlling force unless they are demonstrably a reasonable measure of job performance. Congress has not commanded that the less qualified be preferred over the better qualified simply because of minority origins. Far from disparaging job qualifications as such, Congress has made such qualifications the controlling factor, so that race, religion, nationality, and sex become irrelevant. What Congress has commanded is that any tests used must measure the person for the job and not the person in the abstract.” In that case, a power company was using IQ tests to screen applicants. SCOTUS further said “The Act proscribes not only overt discrimination but also practices that are fair in form, but discriminatory in operation. The touchstone is business necessity. If an employment practice which operates to exclude Negroes cannot be shown to be related to job performance, the practice is prohibited.”

    Thus, an athletic test to screen football players for the team is not illegal since a key asset for players of a competitive football team is …. athletic performance.

    Similarly, an academic aptitude test for a gifted program like ACL is …… wait for it ….. “useful” and “demonstrably a reasonable measure” for screening in the words of SCOTUS. Critical thinking skills tests are precisely what should be used.

    The NAACP Loudoun Branch is nothing more than a clown show. Herring was politically extorted by the NAACP for his racist past including his infamous blackface incidents. This report is nothing more than political payback.

    But most importantly Renss, LCPS is required to do NOTHING by this report. The AG’s office is asking LCPS to roll over. But to enforce this, the AG would need to take LCPS to court. They would lose at the motion to dismiss stage. Nobody, and I do mean nobody, disputes that an aptitude test is a reasonable measure to screen for a gifted program. This article is simply wrong in stating “[t]he determination lays out a series of actions the school system must now take”. There is no court order requiring that, it’s simply a bluff.

    Please, talk to competent folks before reprinting the propaganda and nonsense from the NAACP.

  • 2020-11-21 at 2:36 pm
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    OK. let’s not automatically respond to what the NAACP wants or what the article is obviously trying to trigger. Let’s take a minute to look at the program itself. It is a 4 year program designed by both LCPS and HHMI made of two components REQUIRING exceptional competence in math and science for admission. The first two years is a compressed transcript numbered course which integrates 3 years of advanced level math and science followed by two years of project emphasized independent learning. The participants lose a class in order to commute to the centralized facility. Because I was on the school board for 8 years as AOS was introduced and one of my children attended AOS I can credibly share that the school board has ignored the BIGGEST DISCRIMINATORY FACTOR. It is NOT demographic equivalence as obviously white students are represented least and Asian students represented the most. It is the OBVIOUS and cruel conclusion that a transcript numbered course which is viewed as beyond excellent is denied to ALL high school students who could qualify but don’t want to commute to a central location to take the first two year AOS course in their own high school. Not one school board or BOS member has contacted me to better understand this issue. If bureaucrats don’t even care enough to understand an issue that affects your children you should NEVER VOTE FOR THEM nor be lead into “their” world of skin color being outcome determinative of future success or opportunity! The first two year AOS course is EXCELLENT and should be taught at ALL high schools. 🙂

  • 2020-11-22 at 3:32 am
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    So, if the objective of the local chapter of the NAACP is equality and equity, then equality and equity should be the order of the day in all things. This means that 15% of the players in the NHL must be Black, therefore, the NHL better get to work real fast. Conversely, since the NAACP’s objective is equality and equity, does this mean the NBA and NFL are going to fire all of the Black professional athletes except for the top 15%? If so, the Asian community better step up quick because they are way behind when it comes to NFL players. Of course what I have written is nonsense because at the end of the day, all real Americans want the best players on the field, period. These players got to the NFL, NHL, and NBA by hard work and putting in the time, no one gave them anything. If the Academies of Loudoun require the same test of everyone and the same paperwork from every applicant, then the selection process should be based on merit, plain and simple. BTW, why did Mr. Herring get a pass for his Black face photo?

  • 2020-11-25 at 11:50 pm
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    Racism and discrimination based on skin color is what you get when you vote for DEMs.

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