MCLEAN, Va. - When Cooper Middle School sent out a letter to families about the College Partnership Program, the Virginia Attorney General’s Office declared it as "unlawful discrimination," according to the Commonwealth’s Human Rights Act.
"Well, the mission was not alarming. I think it’s fabulous that a middle school wants to have these prep courses to prepare students for college. I think that’s absolutely wonderful, but what was alarming to me is it was restricted to only certain races and ethnic backgrounds," said Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares.
On March 1, the e-mail asked Cooper Middle School parents, "Do you have an 8th grader who wants to go to college, and they fall into one or more of these categories?"
The list included Black or African American, Hispanic, and even economically disadvantaged students. However, Attorney General Miyares believes this is an opportunity people from all backgrounds should be able to take advantage of.
"For so many of these students that were being excluded, English is not even their first language spoken at home," Miyares said. "If they were excluded from participating in this college prep program simply because they weren’t of a certain racial background, but maybe they were Korean-American, or Pakistani, or Indian-American."
On another recruitment flyer circulating around, the College Partnership Program stopped referring to Black, African American, or Hispanic students and changed the writing to "students of color" and "immigrant students" instead — but that didn’t fix the issue at hand.
"I want a Virginia where everyone – regardless of your racial, ethnic background – can achieve their dreams," Miyares said.
By March 31, Cooper Middle School changed the terminology, ultimately inviting all students to apply without having to specify the color of their skin.
Fairfax County Public Schools sent FOX 5 a statement that reads, "The Virginia AG’s office has notified us that it has closed its inquiry into the College Partnership Program and has noted that the applications for the program make no reference to any classification based on race, ethnicity, or national origin."
"As Mark Twain once said, ‘In America, doesn’t matter where you came from, it matters where you’re going,’ and I’m thrilled for those students who were maybe excluded from participating before can participate now," Miyares said.
You can read the full settlement letter here: