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Stephanie Lundquist-Arora
Stephanie Lundquist-Arora
March 14, 2024 - 4 minutes
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Opinion

Thomas Jefferson high school should acknowledge its own anti-Asian racism problem in its new reporting system

Stephanie Lundquist-Arora is a contributor for the Washington Examiner, a mother in Fairfax County, Virginia, an author, a member of the Coalition for TJ, and the Fairfax chapter leader of the Independent Women’s Network. This Piece originally appeared on Washington Examiner.


Last Friday evening, the assistant principal at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Shawn Frank, sent a message to families, notifying them of a new confidential reporting form at Fairfax County’s magnet school. Frank told TJ families, “The form is designed to allow TJ students and staff to confidentially report incidents of discrimination, bullying, racism, harassment, slurs, or hate speech.”

The new reporting system is redundant, given the school district’s existing pathways to report such incidents. Fairfax County Public Schools already has a standard system to report and store general incidents of bullying, called the “bullying and harassment management system.” But, the same school board members who changed the admissions standards at TJ because of their problem with too many Asian students being admitted also decided that this system was not enough. Apparently, the school board’s priority is monitoring students’ unintended, perceived biases to shape them better ideologically.

Last year, for example, Fairfax County’s school board members voted to implement a bias incident reporting system in addition to the bullying and harassment management system. The purpose of the district’s Orwellian system, like many facing legal challenges across the country for chilling free speech, is to keep a database of incidents that involve the perceived intended or unintended biases of students and teachers. 

It might be that TJ administrators are unaware such a system exists at the district level. Or perhaps TJ administrators don’t have faith in the district administrators’ competence to implement and oversee such an invasive system. Either way, they’re now implementing a legally questionable system at the school level that already exists at the district level.

The school’s initiative is ironic, given its public support of racism and discrimination against students of Asian descent. In 2021, Fairfax County Public Schools moved from a merit-based admissions system to an equity-based admissions system at TJ for the sake of “racial balance.” Not surprisingly, the decline in admissions standards, including the elimination of an entrance exam, has led to the school’s slip in the national ranking. It is widely expected to fall even more after the last merit-based class graduates this June.

The admissions changes at TJ are regressive, which is the opposite word of the so-called progressives who advocated them. In fact, the district’s shift in policy reminds me of the adversity one of my college professors faced when applying to graduate schools in the 1960s. Although she was a highly qualified candidate, an Ivy League university explicitly informed her in its rejection letter that it had already reached its quota for women for the year. It denied her admission not because of her merit but because of her gender.

Similarly, among Fairfax County’s school board members, it appears that Asian students are seen as a problem for the magnet school because they do too well academically. To solve that problem, district and school administrators worked together to craft an anti-merit admissions policy explicitly intended to reduce the number of Asian students. Some of the school board members even acknowledged their clear racism in their communications. In a text message, one of the members said to another, “I mean, there has been an anti Asian feel underlying some of this, hate to say it lol.”

I wonder if some of the Asian students at TJ will justifiably submit reports in the form TJ’s assistant principal has advertised. In spite of the institutionalized racism at TJ, those students were still admitted to the school. Perhaps more well-intended, truth-seeking school administrators would also open up their ironic reporting system to the Asian students who were excluded from TJ despite their merit.

Stephanie Lundquist-Arora
Stephanie Lundquist-Arora
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