Fairfax Co. school system hits back at AG Miyares’ claims that college prep program discriminates

Virginia’s Attorney General Jason Miyares is accusing the Fairfax County Public Schools of “racially discriminating against children,” after he said Cooper Middle School sent out a letter to parents offering a college prep program for students of certain racial or ethnic groups.

In a “notice of inquiry and demand” sent to the school’s principal Lisa Barrow, Miyares claimed the letter only invited students to participate in the Fairfax County’s College Partnership Program if they fell under the following categories:

  • Students who are the first in their family to attend college in the U.S.
  • Black or African American students
  • Hispanic students, of one or more race
  • Students with disabilities
  • English (as a second language) learners
  • Economically disadvantaged students

According to Miyares, the letter violated the Virginia Human Rights Act which bans discrimination based on a person’s race or ethnic background.

“It’s shocking that we continue to find such blatant examples of racial and ethnic discrimination in the Fairfax County Public School System,” Miyares said in a statement. “I demand that Cooper Middle School, its administrators, and anyone involved in this program stop this illegal discrimination immediately.”

In the letter, Miyares demanded proof from the school that the letter was retracted and proof the program is being operated in a “nondiscriminatory and legal manner.”

In response to the program, the school system, in a statement, said reports that there is a ban on certain demographics when it comes to who can apply for the program are “wholly inaccurate.”

“The email from Cooper Middle School speaks for itself and, in the judgment of the Attorney General, violates the law,” Miyares spokeswoman Victoria LaCivita told WTOP. “That is why Attorney General Miyares has demanded a correction to the email. If FCPS truly wants to boost educational achievement and not undermine it, it should stop sending emails like the one it did. Discrimination has no place in public education and Attorney General Miyares will continue to demand that it stops.”

In an emailed statement, the school system said in the 2022-2023 school year of the program’s total 2,018 students, 352 or 17% of the students were Asian, and 176 or 8.7% were white.

On the program website, the school system states, “The goal of the College Partnership Program (CPP) is to increase the number of students, particularly first-generation and traditionally underrepresented students, that enroll and succeed in college.”

The schools website lists a “typical CPP student” as a first generation, African American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Hispanic, limited English proficient, disabled or economically disadvantaged person.

The school system also said it’s disappointed that no one from the Office of the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia contacted Fairfax County Public Schools to check on the authenticity of these reports.

“Instead, false and damaging public accusations against Cooper Middle School have been made. Publishing false narratives like this undermine public school efforts to boost U.S. educational achievement,” the statement said.

The letter comes in the midst of a probe into the school system by the attorney general’s office over reported delays in award notifications at several schools, including the county’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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