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Youngkin calls on Virginia AG to investigate high school that withheld merit-based awards

Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Tuesday called for an investigation into a high school that delayed notifying students of their merit awards in an effort to advance the school’s equity policy.

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, one of the top high schools in Northern Virginia, delayed informing students of their recognition for national merit-based awards until after important deadlines for college scholarships had passed. 

The Commended Student Awards are given by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation to recognize top-performing high schoolers nationwide.

Youngkin sent a letter to Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, asking him to investigate the allegations that the school withheld notifications to students about their merit awards.

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“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. I believe this failure may have caused material harm to those students and their parents, and that this failure may have violated the Virginia Human Rights Act.”

The delayed notification was discovered by a parent whose son was not informed that he was among the nation’s top 3% of students until teachers dropped certificates unceremoniously on students’ desks about a month past special deadlines for National Merit Scholars.

Director of Student Services Brandon Kosatka allegedly told the parent when confronted about the issue that student leaders minimized the recognition to avoid hurting the feelings of students who failed to earn the honors.

The misconduct comes after Fairfax County Public Schools recently adopted a new strategy that aims to provide “Equal outcomes for every student, without exceptions.”

FCPS said in a statement that it is aware of Youngkin’s order for an investigation and that the district shares “his desire to get to the facts surrounding the delay in notification of National Merit Commendations at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology for 2022.” 

The district said it initiated a third party, independent investigation into the allegations.

“Our preliminary understanding is that the delay this fall was a unique situation due to human error,” FCPS said. “The investigation will continue to examine our records in further detail and we will share key findings with our community.”

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FCPS had previously said it had reached out to colleges to correct its students’ records to reflect their merit awards.

“In addition, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid is meeting with families this evening to listen to their concerns,” the statement continued. “Should the Virginia Attorney General’s office initiate an investigation, FCPS stands ready to work with our partners at the state level. As a reminder, once this error was brought to light, school staff reached out to colleges to update records where commended scholars had applied.”

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