We are parents of students and graduates of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ), and are greatly concerned about recent events and growing misinformation surrounding the changes to the admissions process and anti-racism discussions at the prestigious school we love and respect.
We, TJ parents, have a wide variety of opinions about the particulars of the TJ admissions policy and procedures; there are likely as many opinions on the “ideal” admissions policy for TJ as there are parents, students, and alumni, but we believe in working together, coming to a compromise, and finding resolution.
Most importantly, while some members of the community have spoken loudly and negatively, we here all agree that the members of the newly announced incoming Class of 2025 fully earned their acceptances to the school, and we look forward to welcoming them all into our community. Although some of us did not agree with how the admissions changes were handled, we are pleased that this new class is the most diverse class in TJ history, with a majority of Asian American students and a substantial increase in the number of historically underrepresented minorities. This is about TJ maintaining academic excellence while being more open and inclusive, promoting social emotional learning, and preparing our students for 21st century skills like teamwork and critical thinking. It’s also about including students from low-income families, which will represent 25 percent of the incoming class, as opposed to the usual 2 percent. We wholeheartedly believe that this increased diversity will enrich our school community even more and we welcome the Class of 2025 with open arms.
We also feel strongly that many of the actions and words of members of the “Coalition for TJ” have inflamed, distorted, and confused the issues, often alienating the community. The Coalition has for months now waged a divisive, false, and negative campaign, insisting that any changes are “anti-merit,” “racist,” and specifically designed to “purge Asians,” as one of its most outspoken members declared in a recent Washington Post Op-Ed.
The Coalition leaders’ many appearances in numerous media outlets have made them the public face of TJ parents—but they absolutely do not represent our community. They have used these platforms to make constant calls for the resignation or firing of the school’s principal and FCPS superintendent, and for the recall of members of the School Board. This spring, the Coalition became synonymous with the campaign against so-called “critical race theory,” and its proponents have even targeted our school’s PTSA and want it to be fully engaged in the “fight against CRT.” False and cruel attacks were launched against the new PTSA president — who notably was the first Chinese-American president of the TJ PTSA — because she wanted the PTSA to focus on its usual student-centered and welcoming activities for students, parents, teachers, and staff — regardless of anyone’s political views — rather than on CRT and admissions changes. Who would have imagined that that would become controversial? These toxic attacks finally led her to resign on July 28.
Why is this fight at TJ relevant to the rest of Fairfax County and perhaps the rest of our region? Because TJ is the proverbial canary in the coal mine. The demonization and manipulative weaponizing of “CRT” by Coalition leaders, conveyed in a manner which does not promote unity, and combined with their bullying and censoring tactics, are clearly attempts to silence alternative views and crush efforts to promote diversity and belonging. This in turn threatens to tear our school community apart, which is the complete opposite mission of a school PTSA. That same toxic playbook is already happening in Loudoun County, with School Board meetings so contentious police have had to be called in. The attempted hijacking and perversion of an institution that historically has enabled volunteer parents of all political stripes to work together in support of our students and teachers — the PTSA — needs to be contested and reversed. We hope more parents in Northern Virginia will come to recognize and push back on the divisive tactics we are experiencing at TJ, because only together can we demand civility, and ensure the safe, tolerant, inclusive, and welcoming schools all our students deserve.
Bruce Anderson, Caiyi Li, Justine Byun, Natalie Lorenz Anderson, Kate Carey, Elaine Maag, Steve Chang, Chaya Thyagaraja Merrill, Dana Cibulski, Sujatha Narayan, Julie Cox, Parvathi Rachakonda, Penny Dunlop, Yvette Soliz Rivers, Susan Essman, Dorian Rivers, Michelle Gilles, Chris Rodriguez, Briian Heller, Sanjita Sethi, Stacey Heller, Mae Ybanez-Uy, Khurrum Khan and Yan Yuan