At least three Virginia school districts that failed to notify students about National Merit award commendations are under investigation by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares. The number of schools that have admitted their failure to notify students of national recognition is now at 17. Governor Glen Youngkin is blaming so-called “equity” programs for the problem.
Youngkin said over the weekend the recognition “seems to have been withheld from them for the purpose of not wanting to make people feel bad who didn’t achieve it.” Indeed, the scandal broke earlier this month when parents of students at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County accused the school of not telling students they had received National Merit recognition to avoid upsetting others who had not.
As crazy and idiotic as that sounds, it was not unexpected. Thomas Jefferson High School used to be one of the finest secondary schools in the world. But then Fairfax County Public Schools paid an “equity consultant” $455,000 to develop programs to guarantee “equal outcomes,” and the rest is entirely predictable.
School officials said they believed the delay was “a unique situation due to human error” and are investigating why notifications did not go out “in a timely manner” to those designated as commended students by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Fairfax County Public Schools officials previously told ABC News that “to suggest a deliberate intent to withhold this information would be inaccurate and contrary to the values” of the school district.
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares launched a probe into the matter earlier this month to determine whether the Thomas Jefferson school administration violated students’ civil rights. The investigation subsequently expanded to the entire Fairfax County school district “in light of reports and complaints that multiple schools across the county withheld awards from high achieving students,” the attorney general’s office said on Jan. 9.
Fairfax schools is blaming the failure to notify kids of their National Merit commendation on an “administrative error.” But what about kids from schools in Loudon and Prince William counties, where nine schools failed to notify students of their recognition?
It’s important because a National Merit commendation can make the difference in being accepted at a good school, according to college admissions expert Julia Ross.
Ross says she’s never seen anything like what’s going on in Virginia with National Merit Scholarship winners, especially at Thomas Jefferson High (“TJ”).
“It is incredibly frustrating because it is one of the things we ask the students,” Ross said. “When you look at TJ, about 50% of their junior class and senior class would have been commended or was commended, but they weren’t commended on time. That’s another huge number, so it’s expected. Students are evaluated for college admission in their graduating cohort, so they’re going to compare these students against other TJ kids of this year and, to some extent, by prior years by saying, ‘Well this kid wasn’t commended.’ It’s very important you’re keeping up with the Joneses in college admission.”
According to the school districts, 75% of students who weren’t notified of their award are Asians. This was the problem in 2020 at Thomas Jefferson High, the most diverse high school in the district. But woke activists and administrators complained there were too many Asians accepted at TJ, which began the systematic destruction of merit-based admissions at the school.
The Left has redefined educational “equity” to mean not just lifting the bottom up but also tearing the top down. Two weeks ago, in a town hall with TJ students, Virginia Education secretary Atif Qarni compared students who study with private tutors to athletes who take illegal “performance enhancement drugs.” Last week’s TJ “work session” came on the heels of an afternoon session where [Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand] unveiled plans to implement an “anti-racism and anti-bias” curriculum in Fairfax County schools, including TJ. During the meeting on TJ admissions, Brabrand and school officials took repeated digs at TJ’s achievement-driven (and Asian-dominated) culture.
It appears that Virginia AG Miyares has his work cut out for him. We can also expect the usual radical left suspects railing against the “witch hunt” by Miyarers.
The sad fact is that the AG will not have a paper trail to follow. Any incriminating documents about deliberately withholding the award notifications are probably long gone.