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Amid probe, more Virginia high schools apologize for withholding news of academic awards

via ABC7

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    Update: Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares on Monday confirmed the expansion of the investigation to cover all schools in the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) system. This article has been updated to reflect the new information.

    Two high schools in Virginia’s Fairfax County have apologized to families over late notifications of students’ National Merit certifications, triggering the start of a county-wide investigation Monday.

    Langley High School Principal Kim Greer first sent an email on Friday night to parents, saying she was “delighted” that “your student was designated a Commended Student by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.” She then said she was “deeply sorry” that the certificates were not distributed “in the usual way this past fall.”

    On Saturday night, Westfield High School Principal Tony DiBari reportedly sent a nearly identical email, congratulating commended students and admitting that they were also notified “this past fall.” He said the school was “sincerely sorry.”

    The apologies follow Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares’ announcement of a probe into Fairfax County Public Schools and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) over similar allegations. 

    Author and journalist Asra Q. Nomani, whose own son was affected by the “years-long” practice at Thomas Jefferson, broke the news in a City Journal piece last month, noting that those most affected were Asian Americans.

    In an email to Thomas Jefferson parents on Dec. 12, 2022, Director of Student Services Brandon Kosatka reportedly revealed similar commendations and said they were “deeply sorry” for the late notifications. However, he also stressed that they wanted to “recognize students for who they are as individuals, not focus on their achievements” and that he and Principal Ann Bonitatibus did not want to “hurt” the feelings of those who were not recognized.

    “No student should be treated differently because of their race,” Miyares said in a statement on Wednesday. “Students at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology are amongst the brightest in the nation, yet some have been punished in the name of ‘equity.’”

    “Racism and race-based government decision making in any form is wrong and unlawful under Virginia’s Human Rights Act. The controversial admissions policies at TJHSST, which have significantly decreased the amount of Asian American students enrolled in recent years, is another example of students being treated differently because of their ethnicity,” he added.

    Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, who called on Miyares to conduct the investigation, also condemned the withheld commendation notifications as “what appears to be an egregious, deliberate attempt to disadvantage high-performing students at one of the best schools in the country.” 

    He also cited a possible violation of the Virginia Human Rights Act.

    “Just as Virginia parents deserve answers and assurances that the safety of their children will never be compromised, they also deserve transparency when it comes to student achievements,” Youngkin wrote in his letter to Miyares. “This is especially true when it comes to measuring achievements that have a direct impact on post-secondary education.”

    Miyares confirmed today that he is expanding the investigation to cover the entire Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) system.

    “Today I’m expanding my civil rights investigation into Thomas Jefferson High School’s withholding of merit awards to include the Fairfax Public Schools system following reports that other schools failed to notify and recognize their qualifying students,” he tweeted.


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