Before you read:
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has called for an investigation into recent allegations of delayed notifications of academic awards at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST).
Thomas Jefferson, regarded as the nation’s top high school, was accused of concealing its students’ National Merit certifications in the name of “equity.” Around 1,200 students — mostly Asian Americans — were allegedly affected by the withholding of such information, which would have been helpful for college applications and other scholarship programs.
In an op-ed for City Journal, author and journalist Asra Q. Nomani — whose own son was affected by the “years-long” practice — pinned the blame on Principal Ann Bonitatibus and Director of Student Services Brandon Kosatka.
Lawyer Shawna Yashar, another parent with a child deprived of the information, reportedly learned from Kosatka that the practice was “intentional” because they did not want to “hurt” the feelings of students who do not receive awards.
On Tuesday, Youngkin asked Attorney General Jason Miyares, a fellow Republican, to launch an investigation into Thomas Jefferson’s controversial practices.
“We need to get to the bottom of what appears to be an egregious, deliberate attempt to disadvantage high-performing students at one of the best schools in the country,” Youngkin said in a statement. “Parents and students deserve answers and Attorney General Miyares will initiate a full investigation.”
Youngkin said the “failure” may have caused material harm to the students and their families. 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.”
Victoria LaCivita, a spokesperson for Miyares, confirmed on Tuesday that the attorney general has received Youngkin’s request.
She pointed out that Miyares “has been carefully reviewing and evaluating the allegations of racial discrimination at Thomas Jefferson School of Science and Technology since the very first public reports.”
Meanwhile, Fairfax County Public Schools, which oversees Thomas Jefferson, said it has contacted colleges and universities where recognized students have applied to inform them of the awards. It is also conducting an investigation into the matter.
Parents and community members held a rally on Tuesday night to call for change.
They carried signs that said “Merit over ideology,” “Stop the sabotage” and “Save merit.”
“When I found out [about it], I’m like, ‘Why can’t they do it [notify students] at the same time?’” a protester told WUSA9. “If they can send the email about semifinalists, why can’t they send the email about commended students too?”