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ALEXANDRIA, Va. – In summer 2017, when Ann Bonitatibus walked through the front doors of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology as its new principal, she came with a mission to turn the top-rated school upside down. For her, that meant flipping the school’s racial demographics. At the time, 7 of 10 students came from Asian immigrant families, two of 10 from white families, and one of 10 students came from black, Hispanic, and multiracial families.
On June 7, 2020, after George Floyd’s killing, Bonitatibus emailed our mostly minority, immigrant families, telling us to check our “privileges,” expressing her shame at our “Colonials” mascot, and outlining her vision for a new racial makeup at the school. Soon Bonitatibus will be able to say “mission accomplished”—courtesy of an unfortunate 6-3 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.
The justices “temporarily reinstated a woke admissions policy at one of America’s top schools despite a federal judge previously ruling it was racist,” the UK’s Daily Mail reported bluntly.
‘No. 1 School Has Become the Titanic’
Our legal battle to stop the principal and fellow activists from completely hijacking the school as a magnet for advanced students in math and science is far from over. But the decision is bad news for the short-term future of TJ, as the school is called, where freshmen are leaving the school in record numbers and teachers are abandoning ship.
“Our country’s No. 1 school has become the Titanic,” says one person, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from the principal. Indeed, U.S. News and World Report just released its rankings of top schools and TJ is No. 1 again—but folks wonder for how long.
According to people familiar with the school, the situation has become so bad the principal has instructed counselors to connect her with students considering leaving the school, so she can meet with them and keep her numbers down, something she didn’t do regularly before. Fairfax County Public Schools and Bonitatibus didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Yes, Racism Is Still Unconstitutional in America
Know this. Our parents are on the correct side of history. On February 28, federal Judge Claude Hilton issued a historic ruling in our lawsuit, Coalition for TJ v. Fairfax County School Board. Hilton said a new admissions process the school board put in place in December 2020, with the principal’s advocacy, is “patently unconstitutional” and ordered the school board to immediately return to its previous merit-based, race-blind admissions test system.
Already, the district picked the Class of 2025 through an illegal admissions process, causing the percentage of Asian students admitted last year to plummet from 73 to 54 percent, in a purge.
On March 10, the judge denied the school board’s request for a “stay” of his order, pending its appeal of his decision. School board officials challenged Judge Hilton’s refusal of the stay in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., and, in a 2-1 split decision, two judges granted the stay.
In response, lawyers for Pacific Legal Foundation, which represents the Coalition for TJ, filed an emergency application on April 8 with the U.S. Supreme Court to vacate the stay. Often, judges don’t like to rule on lower-court decisions until they evaluate the merits of a case. Getting three judges to overcome that reticence and vote to overturn the stay says a lot about how seriously they view this constitutional violation. It bodes well for our return to the Supreme Court.
Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied
Now, however, the case heads back to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the Fairfax County school board is trying to overturn Hilton’s ruling. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear oral arguments in September. If it reverses the federal judge’s ruling, Pacific Legal Foundation will take the case back to the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the merits.
The Supreme Court ruling clears the way for admissions officers to flip half the school, by allowing next year’s freshman class, the Class of 2026, to be announced any day now through the unconstitutional process. The illegal process will likely be used for another admissions cycle for the Class of 2027 and the selection of three-fourths of the school. Finally, maybe in late 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court may hear the case on its merits.
With justice delayed, it’s children who are paying the price. For months, parents and teachers have been talking about how the freshmen admitted through the lower academic admissions standards are struggling and leaving the school. Even freshmen students are calling the Class of 2024 the “last real class of TJ.” Now the data is in.
Record Numbers of Freshmen Leaving
According to the school district’s website, only 541 students of the 550 students admitted in the Class of 2025 even started in September 2021. Several left throughout the school year, in March bringing the Class of 2025 to 529 students from 541.
That’s 12 students, or a record 2.2 percent of the freshman class, who dropped out of the school. The number may seem small, but consider that only one student dropped out the entire year before from the Class of 2024.
Teachers also say the principal has sent a clear message: don’t fail freshmen. The year before, in the freshman Class of 2023, only one student dropped out.
Record Numbers of Unprepared Students
In February, blaming “pandemic learning gaps,” Bonitatibus had staff announce new after-school “Algebra Review Sessions” because so many Class of 2025 students were ill-prepared in math.
Furthermore, a new study by the Fairfax County Association for the Gifted, which advocates for advanced academic students, confirms the new admissions process admitted students in the Class of 2025 with less advanced math than the year before. Compared to the TJ Class of 2024, the proportion of students admitted in the Class of 2025 with Algebra 2 or higher completed in 8th grade decreased from 35 to 18 percent. Advanced math, like multivariable calculus, lays the foundation for advanced sciences, from artificial intelligence and machine learning, that matter to TJ students (and the school’s mission).
The study also found 38 percent of Fairfax County Public Schools students admitted to the TJ Class of 2025 “were not participating in the most rigorous coursework available in 8th grade.”
Indeed, in response to a FOIA request by a TJ mother, Fairfax County officials revealed that the number of TJ students who had to take geometry—a course that most ninth graders completed before arriving at TJ under merit admissions—skyrocketed to 136 students in the 2021-2022 school year from 11 in 2020-2021 and 15 in 2019-2020.
Unfortunately, educrat-activists like Bonitatibus are now busy rewriting their role in this disaster. At a Sept. 15, 2020, online school board “work session,” Bonitatibus beamed as she enumerated the many ways she had advanced the new admissions policy that would bring “representative demographics” to TJ, according to a recording of the meeting.
She’d “been involved” in a special task force that Virginia Education Secretary Atif Qarni had convened in June 2020 to push race-based admissions changes. Bonitatibus, who grew up in Pittsburgh as a Steelers fan, proudly said she had been fielding questions from the superintendent and school district chief operating officer for “several weeks” as they worked on a new “merit lottery” race-based admissions process.
Denying ‘Any Role’ in Admissions Changes
Last week, however, a new video reveals, Bonitatibus stood before parents at a meeting of the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association, or PTSA, and denied her role in the TJ admissions changes.
“To be clear,” Bonitatibus said, sharply, “it is the FCPS school board who makes the decision about TJ admissions and FCPS leadership. I do not make – nor have I had any role – in the decision-making for TJ admissions.”
Brian Davison, a TJ father who asked Bonitatibus about her advocacy for the new race-based admissions policy, shook his head in disbelief at this. “The judge called you a racist,” he said, as members of a new rubber-stamping PTSA clapped for the principal.
“Principal Ann Bonitatibus is a liar,” Davison later told me. “She used her official channels, including the FCPS email system, to say that it is unacceptable for 70 percent of TJ students to be Asian. Bonitatibus owes the community an apology for her indisputable position that Asian students should be replaced solely because they have the wrong skin color. How can an avowed racist remain as principal of TJ when over half of her students know she holds racial animus against them?”
‘Get Your Hands Off Me’
Meanwhile, at the PTSA meeting, PTSA President Yvette Rivers moved to have Davison “removed” for “heckling” the principal, as a TJ mother, Kate Carey, who supports the new admissions policy, scrambled to stand in front of Davison and another TJ father, Harry Jackson, who was filming the meeting.
Carey then darted to Jackson and, the video reveals, she frantically waved a green PTSA voter’s card in front of Jackson’s phone as he moved it above his head, above her reach. The green card can be seen flashing in front of the camera. Witnesses say Carey pressed against Jackson’s left leg, left shoulder, and left side, desperate to get to the phone.
Jackson, a former U.S. Naval officer and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, supports a return to merit-based admissions. He can be heard on camera saying, “Get your hands off of me.”
Rivers, who supports the new admissions policy, repeatedly says, “Kate, Kate, sit down. Kate, please sit down.” Rivers and PTSA officers didn’t return a request for comment.
In a curt response, Carey said, in an email, “I never touched Harry. I blocked view [sic].” A few minutes later, a friend of Carey’s emailed, telling me, not-for-attribution, that Carey “did not touch” Jackson.
Democrat Activists Drunk on Race Extremism
Carey and the principal’s other minions symbolize a national network of apoplectic hard-left activists, most of them white, affluent, and affiliated with local Democratic Party chapters. Loudoun County, Va., parent advocate Ian Prior, founder of Fight for Schools, calls them “Chardonnay Antifa.”
Over the past year, Carey and fellow activists and trolls from the local Fairfax County Democratic Party have spent countless hours, trying to discredit parents (including me) in a series of rants, as “dark money” political operatives, “white supremacists” and “right wing” extremists.
Carey targeted me after I wrote a Federalist column chronicling how the TJ principal violated district policies by bringing “Black Lives Matter at Schools” and a film rated TV-MA into a “social and emotional learning” lesson during school hours, without parental permission slips the school district required.
During the lesson, an activist alum scolded the school’s Asian students about “cultural appropriation” when they salsa dance during a TJ tradition called iNite. I noted at the time that Bonitatibus had lamented in an email, revealed through a Freedom of Information Act request, that there were “so few black and brown children” at TJ.
Earlier this month, Bonitatibus sent another email to parents. This time, she bragged about the school’s celebration for Holi, the Hindu festival of lights, and Model United Nations awards. She signed her email, “Proud TJHSST Principal.”
Last night, donning traditional clothes from India, Bonitatibus also danced at the school’s iNite celebration. Recalling the crusade that the principal has led against the school’s Asian students and families, a mother from China watched, aghast.