Posted on April 29, 2022

After Race-Based Admissions to Nation’s Top High School, Students Drop Out and Underperform at Record Rates

Asra Nomani, The Federalist, April 27, 2022

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.


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.


{snip} 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.


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.


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.


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.