Loudoun County fought an order to desegregate its schools for more than a decade after the Supreme Court ruled it illegal. More recently, the school system has been accused of discriminating against its Black students and failing to provide them with equal access to advance classes.

On Friday, the school system did something those students in the 1950s couldn’t have imagined.

It apologized.

The apology, which took the form of a letter and a video addressed to Loudoun County’s Black community, expressed remorse for the school system’s long history of segregation and acknowledged its persisting legacy of racism in the classroom.

“The additional effort required and resources provided by the Black community to obtain an equal education created hardships to which other community members were not subjected,” the letter read. “Black people were denied rights and equal treatment.”

The president of the local NAACP, however, dismissed the apology as toothless and alleged that the school system did not sufficiently include those who had experienced segregation in determining the best way forward.

“We feel it is more word than action,” said Michelle Thomas, president of the Loudoun County NAACP. “And the genuineness of that apology is questionable at best.”

Rob Doolittle, spokesman for Loudoun County Public Schools, said the school administration invited the local NAACP, the Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee, the Loudoun Douglass High School Alumni Association, the Friends of Thomas Balch Library and the Edwin Washington Project, which is working to preserve records from the school system, to give “input on what subjects the apology should address.”

He also said that the apology is only one step in the county’s plan to combat systemic racism, which the school system released earlier this year.

The school district, one of the country's wealthiest, is located an hour outside of D.C. It confronted long-standing allegations of racism in 2019, when it commissioned a review that found a "hostile learning environment" for students of color. Following the report, the county's school board promised to work to address implicit biases and diversify its employees.

The apology states that it recognizes the inequalities that resulted from the county’s slow march toward integration, which it reluctantly began over a decade after the Supreme Court outlawed public school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education. The letter cites continued discipline of Black students, inequities in teacher salaries, cultural omissions in curriculum and schools and mascots “named after or potentially named after” Confederate figures and plantations, among other enduring inequalities.

The school district is 7 percent African American, 18 percent Hispanic, 25 percent Asian and 44 percent White. Six percent of students are of two or more ethnicities, according to Doolittle.

“Although we recognize that we have yet to fully correct or eradicate matters of racial inequality, we hope that issuing this apology with genuine remorse is a valuable step followed by additional actions, including demonstrable policy changes as outlined in both the Comprehensive Equity Plan and the Action Plan to Combat Systemic Racism,” read the letter from the Loudoun County School Board, the administration of Loudoun County Public Schools and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.

The letter also included a timeline to provide “context for a long-overdue apology to the Black community of Loudoun County.” And the 15-minute video, titled “An Apology to the Loudoun County Black Community,” walked viewers through the history of segregation in Loudoun County Public Schools with historical images and art flashing on the screen. It also included interviews with Black administrators, students and public officials in Loudoun County.

“The apology itself doesn’t change much, but the recognition that something happened that shouldn’t have happened is important,” said Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) in the video.