After progressives abolished an entrance exam to the nation’s top math high school following concerns that too many of those excelling were Asian, the school’s PTA elected a board that intended to stand up for the interests of their high-performing children.
Then the state-wide PTA demanded that the school’s principal be able to vote as part of the board, changing the vote calculus just enough to block action — and when parents cried foul, the state organization on Wednesday threatened to disband the chapter.
The drama at Thomas Jefferson School for Science and Technology (TJ) in northern Virginia highlights the way in which the Parent Teacher Association appears to funnel parents into roles as servants for teachers and administrators, rather than the reverse.
The Fairfax County school board voted to do away with an exam that tested whether students seeking admission to the rigorous math and science school excelled at math and science, making them candidates who would benefit from fast-paced instruction. The change was made after repeated complaints that the racial makeup of the students was not diverse enough, apparently referring to the fact that its student body was 73% Asian.
On Wednesday, the school district announced that the first class under the new policy had been admitted. The percentage of Asians plummeted to 54%, or a reduction in 56 Asian students. The changes primarily resulted in an increase in the numbers of Hispanics, at 46 more students in the newest class compared to last year’s, and whites, whose numbers went up by 37.
The school’s PTA chapter had conducted two polls of parents, which found that 80% of TJ parents thought the school’s admissions should continue to be based on an objective test.
It held an officers election, which resulted in a majority who wanted to speak out against policies that they said reduced the role of merit and math ability in admissions.
But before they could convene and take action, the Virginia PTA, which is technically the local group’s parent organization, intervened to demand that the school’s principal Ann Bonitatibus — who opposes test-based admissions — be allowed to vote as a member of the elected parent group’s executive committee. That would give the executive committee (EC) an even number of votes, and result in a deadlock.
On June 10, a newly-elected PTA officer wrote that “I do not think Dr. Ann Bonitatibus has any right to vote in TJPTSA EC meetings.” Until her vote was needed to block pro-merit advocacy, the principal had never participated in such votes, parents said.
The state PTA’s president-elect Jenna Alexander responded:
Per Article 8, the Principal is a member of the Executive Committee and as such has voting rights. This is not a matter of interpretation, these are binding rules that govern your association and which Board members have a duty not only to understand but to uphold. The inclusion of the principal as a voting member of the EC is, in fact, an organizational standard across Virginia in our local unit bylaws…
As a reminder, the PTSA operates within a school with the permission of the school division and principal and as a fundamental construct of PTA’s mission and values, we operate for the purpose of creating a strong collaborative partnership between school and families.
Parents were shocked. “The fact that a white woman is actively working to install another white woman into a position of additional authority over the will of a majority of minority parents is shocking and disturbing and a reflection once more of the unwelcome and hostile environment in FCPS against minority parents who dare to speak up,” Asra Nomani, a previous member of the EC, wrote.
“The Virginia PTA likes its Asian and minority parents when we are submissive and compliant, but when we question FCPS policies or actions, you turn on the parents.”
On Wednesday, the state PTA interceded again, writing to all parents that the state organization would take steps to shut down the group because of a “disregard for the authority of Virginia PTA” (notwithstanding that the parents had a “majority vote”).
“The continuous lack of respect and disregard for the authority of Virginia PTA, its elected officers, our bylaws, founding principles and values is unacceptable,” it said.
“The challenging and disrespect shown to the current President without adequate reason – other than having a majority vote – does not signify a board that respects the PTA Mission, Values, Purposes and Principles as provided in subsidiary bylaws,” it continued.
It said it would “move forward with the recommendation of revocation of the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology PTSA Charter by the Virginia PTA Board of Directors” because of “failure to adhere to PTA values and principles,” such as “calling for disciplinary action and resignation of the principal” and “discussing stripping the principal of the voting rights.”
The PTA also condemned parents for making “regular FIOA [sic] requests for parent-principal communication,” according to the letter, which was authored by Virginia PTA State President Pamela Croom, and a copy of which was sent to Principal Bonitatibus.
The Virginia PTA did not immediately return a request for comment.
In an interview with The Daily Wire, Asra Nomani said, “The survey revealed that 80% of parents opposed the lottery[-style admissions change] and we would have been representing our members, which is our duty under the bylaws.”
She noted that the PTA’s new president is Harry Jackson, a black man who supports merit-based admission. “A month ago, Harry Jackson and three other guys won a majority of the seats, so there was clearly going to be a new direction where we would take a position on admissions,” she said.
“It’s a diverse executive committee; we’ve never had so many dads. We now have a black executive officer. We have Asian immigrants from India and China,” Nomani said, noting that the state PTA president-elect officer who intervened is white.
She said that the move could amount to seizing the $80,000 in funds parents donated for the benefit of their children and that the state organization did not even discuss the issue of revoking its charter with all executive committee members before emailing the entire broader PTA membership with the threat.
In a three-part series, The Daily Wire previously reported how the PTA — which for decades parents assumed was a suitable way to be involved in their children’s education — has repeatedly lobbied for positions preferred by teachers, and against those preferred by parents. Its findings included:
- In December, the national PTA indicated that it believes its role is influencing parents, rather than parents influencing school administrators, writing: “National PTA has engaged in, and is committed to, deep, program-wide work and advocating on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) for parents and students alike… We call upon our PTA members to listen, educate and advocate to demand meaningful change to end institutional racism.” It leveled accusations against parents’ young children, encouraging parents to read an article called “Your 5-Year Old Is Already Racially Biased.”
- In July, despite anger by parents at schools’ prolonged coronavirus closures, the PTA joined with the NEA national teachers union to oppose a push to open schools, writing, “The president should not be brazenly making these decisions.” The PTA has taken multiple positions that contradict the opinion of the majority of parents according to polls, including its opposition to vouchers and typical charter schools and support for transgender students in locker rooms and bathrooms, which a 2016 poll found that fewer than a third of parents wanted.
- Teachers union officials have permeated the PTA leadership from top to bottom. In one case, the same woman is both vice president of the Colorado PTA and on the national board of the NEA teachers union; another man went from being an officer of the Massachusetts teachers union to an officer of the National PTA.
In March, the national PTA revoked the charter of the state-level PTA in Maryland after financial irregularities and suspicious events like the shredding of papers. Its president, LaTonja Carrera, is facing unrelated criminal charges involving allegedly stealing from a veteran with mental health needs. She was named president of the state PTA despite a previous criminal record.