Virginia AG: Loudoun Co. schools must reform gifted program admissions process

A 13-month investigation has found “reasonable cause” to believe the public school district in Loudoun County, Virginia, discriminated against students of color who applied for gifted and talented programs.

And although Loudoun County Public Schools already have plans to end systemic racism, the final report, signed by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, concluded that more changes are needed.

The investigation by the Virginia Attorney General’s Office Division of Human Rights was launched after a formal complaint was filed by the NAACP’s Loudoun Branch.

“Our chief complaint in this situation was actually the denial of admission of Academies of Loudoun for their Academy of Science and Academy of Engineering program, where African American students were often left out of the admissions process,” said NAACP Loudoun Branch President Pastor Michelle Thomas.

“They actually only accepted maybe between one in three African American applicants a year,” Thomas said. “Some years there were actually zero applicants accepted into either … program.”

The report, released Wednesday, requires some actions to be taken within 60 days. They include developing new ways increase diversity in programs such as the Academies of Loudoun, as well as updating discipline and hiring policies.

“This is the first time where we’re getting outside oversight,” Thomas said.

In a statement, Loudoun County Public Schools said they are reviewing the 61-page document to “fully understand the asserted reasoning, conclusions and recommendations it contains.”

“Every individual is valued in Loudoun County Public Schools, and LCPS remains committed to creating a safe, empathetic, respectful and supportive learning environment in order to empower every student to make meaningful contributions to the world,” the statement said.

The district also said schools will continue to roll out anti-racism initiatives, as well as work to address community concerns and resolve differences.

In September, the school district issued a formal apology to the Black community for resisting desegregation decades ago.

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Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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