NAACP of Loudoun County Investigates STEM Program Admissions

Brendan Belligham

The Loudoun County chapter of the NAACP is currently calling for a thorough investigation of the admissions process for the county’s new STEM school, titled Academies of Loudoun, after they admitted only one black student. The academy admitted has 1,542 students out of a pool of 2,116 applicants, including 65 black students. The NAACP chapter is working to “dismantle historical systemic racism within the LCPS school system” and promote diversity in the STEM field. The county responded to concerns with a written statement saying:

“Beginning with admissions windows opening in the fall of 2019, changes to the admissions process will be made to decrease testing bias and better measure aptitude and passion for STEM, rather than achievement alone. LCPS also is committed to creating early opportunities for all students, especially those often underrepresented in advanced academic programs such as the Academies of Loudoun, to participate in STEM and advanced academic activities.” 

A long history of racism has plagued Loudoun County since the end of the Civil War. Government services, including education, were segregated for decades following the abolition of slavery, and racist policies like redlining persisted. One of the last counties to desegregate just 51 years ago in 1968, the county finally desegregated after fighting hard to keep white kids separated from black. Before desegregating, the resources that white schools received were incomparable to those in black schools. Black communities received little government funding to support school supplies needs and teacher salaries, so they were forced to pool money out-of-pocket to educate their students. The county went as far as issuing a poll tax to speak to the school board, knowing that most black people could not pay the tax. This effectively barred minority community members from changing discriminatory schooling on their own. 

It took Loudoun county 14 years after Brown vs. Board of Education to desegregate. Taxpayer listings were separated by race until 1963 and the 1930 Board of Supervisors minutes reveal that there was $122,780 given to pay white school teachers’ salaries, but only $13,254 given to black school teachers. 

Present-day, Loudoun county contains a 7% black population of 22,710 people and their quality of life is greatly increased from what it was 51 years ago. However, while their blatant discrimination in government services has come to an end, they are continuing to have their representation challenged. 

While some assert that the admitted students are well rounded with the demographics of Loudoun county, some see a continuation of systematic racism in the county.