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 investigatingcomplaints about the extremely low numberof Black and Hispanic students accepted into the advanced STEM programs.
Among the changeswere 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.