The Parent Teacher Association of Virginia sent a letter of intent to abolish the parent group of the nation’s top high school after a slate of candidates opposed to critical race theory won an election earlier this month.
The letter, sent to the Parent Teacher Student Association of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology on Wednesday, claims that the recently elected candidates skirted bylaws and created a “hostile environment” for members. This is the latest fallout between pro- and anti-critical race theory factions at the elite high school, which made headlines last fall after district officials abolished its entrance exam in an attempt to boost black and Hispanic enrollment.
The Virginia Parent Teacher Association would circumvent the results of the referendum on Fairfax County Public Schools if it decided to move forward with eliminating Thomas Jefferson’s parent board. Candidates opposed to Thomas Jefferson’s recent equity measures—such as the updated admissions process—won a majority on the association board.
Harry Jackson, who was voted president-elect in the most recent election, called the Virginia PTA’s move “dictatorial.”
“This is how they welcome this new diverse class, by taking away their support,” Jackson, who will be the first black man to serve as president-elect, told the Washington Free Beacon. “This is the most diverse class in history, and Virginia PTA takes out their support structures. It’s dictatorial.”
Thomas Jefferson’s Parent Teacher Student Association president Bonnie Qin and a faction of pro-critical race theory parents lobbied to allow principal Ann Bonitatibus, who backed the school’s equity push, to vote in parent association meetings—bucking precedent and giving an additional vote to the pro-critical race theory coalition. Jackson and others fought against that move, as principals of Thomas Jefferson High School have historically refrained from voting in Parent Teacher Student Association decisions. The Virginia PTA said prohibiting Bonitatibus, an executive committee member, from voting, violates bylaws.
The Virginia PTA has final authority in the decision to revoke the Parent Teacher Student Association Charter. The timetable for doing so is unclear.
The Coalition for Thomas Jefferson, a parent group that backed Jackson and other anti-critical race theory candidates, sued the Fairfax County School Board in March. The updated admissions process, the group said, intentionally sought to lower Asian-American enrollment at Thomas Jefferson. Demographic data for the incoming freshman class shows that the new admissions process did just that. The number of Asian students fell 16 percent for the incoming class—and the number of white students in the class increased by 43 percent—as a result of the change.
The same actors who pushed for implementing critical race theory based initiatives at Thomas Jefferson—including Bonitatibus—also wanted to eliminate the admissions test, a series of December emails between district officials revealed. In addition to Bonitatibus, who in a June email asked parents to check their “privileges,” Qin works for a law firm that represents TJ Alumni Action Group, which backed the elimination of the entrance exam as well as other “equity” measures.
Jackson said that move limited the opportunity of many children in the district “based on their ethnicity.”
“Lots of gifted Asian students did not get in because they had limited opportunity,” Jackson told the Free Beacon. “I find it wrong to limit a child’s opportunity based on ethnicity.”
The letter is a clear attempt to “hijack” parents’ power at the nation’s top high school during an ongoing debate over merit-based admissions, Asra Nomani, a parent of a 2021 Thomas Jefferson graduate and vice president for Parents Defending Education, told the Free Beacon.
“The actions by the Virginia PTA are an aggressive abuse of power to control the mostly immigrant, mostly minority parents at America’s number one high school … and hijack the school, while it sits in the middle of a national debate over how we protect merit in America,” Nomani said. “It’s a clarion call on how important it is for parents to stand up and be engaged in schools.”