Federal Judge Dismisses Challenge to Academies’ Admission Changes

A federal lawsuit challenging new admission procedures for Loudoun’s Academy of Science and Academy of Engineering and Technology has been dismissed.

Thirty-seven Loudoun County parents in September brought the lawsuit claiming the changes violated their constitutional rights. 

The changes were proposed by then-Superintendent Eric Williams as one element of the school division’s anti-racism campaign after the state Attorney General’s Office announced it was investigating complaints about the extremely low number of Black and Hispanic students accepted into the advanced STEM programs.

Among the changes were to reduce the number of tests used during the months-long qualification period and to create mechanisms to require the slots be distributed more equally among students from each Loudoun middle school. The plan’s stated goal was to increase the number of seats awarded to socio-economically disadvantaged students, which could also result in greater racial and ethnic diversity in the STEM programs. 

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Asian families who claimed the new procedures moved away from an objective, merit-based selection process, were developed using faulty data, and did promote equal opportunity. Asian students comprise 23% of the overall student population, but occupy 82% of the seats at AOS and 55% at AET.

Attorneys for the school division argued that the approach to seek more geographic diversity while reducing entrance qualification barriers were race-neutral.

Under the plan, seven middle schools would be allocated fewer slots at the academies and 11 would be allocated more seats. The schools with fewer seats allocated have the largest percentage of Asian students, according to the filings.

U.S. District Court Judge Anthony J. Trenga ruled that the parents failed to demonstrate a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. While the changes may result in lower admission numbers for Asian students, he found no indication of discriminatory intent in the policy.

The judge also rejected the plaintiff’s request for an injunction stemming from the claim that the School Board violated the Freedom of Information Act, following an apparent effort to convince a member to change her vote during an off-camera recess in the virtual meeting. Such action was unnecessary given the isolated nature of the alleged violation, he wrote.

2 thoughts on “Federal Judge Dismisses Challenge to Academies’ Admission Changes

  • 2021-02-23 at 1:16 pm

    This lawsuit had no chance. Such frivolous actions, including those by clueless leftists like Michael Powers who sues over Administrative Act “violations”, give a bad name to activists who try to ensure LCPS is following good law.

    Policy decisions, such as the admissions process to ACL, can only be changed at the ballot box when they are not specifically discriminatory even if they were intended to be racist (hurt Asians/Indians for the benefit of blacks/Hispanics). This suit was just as frivolous as the OCR complaint initiated by the NAACP and Herring.

    This is not to say that LCPS’ racist policies are always legal. If LCPS were to treat students differently based on their race, for example by punishing non-black students for saying racial slurs but not black students, then LCPS could be successfully sued. The same applies if LCPS tries to suppress employee speech on matters of public concern. But running to the courthouse every time somebody doesn’t like a policy undermines efforts taken by LCPS critics to pursue legitimate cases.

  • 2021-02-23 at 7:50 pm

    Perhaps this case was a bit speculative as the claim didn’t actually happen to any students or AOS candidate yet. Not sure as lawyers for plaintiff apparently chose not to ask or involve prior board members who might have also been lawyers and perhaps even were involved in the admission policy or even had a child in the.program to assist in establishing the case framework. “lost opportunity” in my opinion but a valid case will probably arise if the School Board actually starts discriminating on variables unrelated to performance at the Academy and beyond. It remains a blight on this school board for not opening the first two years of the AOS program to ALL HIGH SCHOOLS as it is a transcript numbered course and in this way could allow hundreds more students to participate.

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