Two more Fairfax schools admit to withholding National Merit Awards from students

The incidents appear to have disproportionately affected Asian students.

Published: January 9, 2023 4:38pm

Updated: January 9, 2023 5:30pm

As Virginia mounts a civil rights investigation into Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology over its withholding of National Merit Awards from students, two more high schools have come forward, admitting to the same decision.

Fairfax schools have come under fire over an equity push that parents say seeks "equal outcomes for every student, without exception." Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares has opened a civil rights investigation into the incident at Jefferson at the direction of Gov. Glenn Youngkin, R-Va., who has suggested the school's move "may have violated the Virginia Human Rights Act."

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Michelle Reid had contended that Jefferson's delay in issuing the awards was a "one-time human error," according to the Fairfax Times. Recent announcements from other principals in the district, however, seem to undercut that position.

Langley High School Principal Kim Greer last Friday evening, sent out an email to parents informing them of their children's receipt of the Commended Student recognitions from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. In that email, she admitted that the notification process had deviated from the school's traditional method, saying "I must apologize that certificates were not distributed to these Langley High School students in the usual way this past fall."

Westfield High School Principal Tony DiBari, meanwhile, told parents Sunday evening that "it has come to light that Westfield High School students designated as Commended Students this past fall were also not notified by the school."

The pair of weekend admissions seem to indicate that the withholding of such academic awards from students was far more systemic throughout the school district than the isolated error to which Reid has admitted. The Times highlighted the district's contract with Performance Fact Inc., a contractor that advocates an "Equity-centered Strategic Plan" seeking to standardize academic outcomes for students. Parents have contended that the district seeks to drag down successful students to that end rather than address those who are struggling in a "race to the bottom."

The incidents appear to have disproportionately affected Asian students, the outlet noted. Miyares has indicated that his investigation will address any potentially adverse effects on that community.

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