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Youngkin calls for civil rights investigation into Fairfax school over delay in academic honors

The school denies wrongdoing and contends that it has worked with students to help them include the academic merits in their applications.

Published: January 3, 2023 6:13pm

Updated: January 3, 2023 6:56pm

Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has called on state Attorney General Jason Miyares to investigate an incident in a Fairfax County school during which students received notification of certain scholarships and academic honors too late to include them on some college applications, a delay many parents claim was done to advance an equity agenda.

In late December, parents of students attending Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology came forward with allegations that the school had deliberately delayed notifying students that they had received academic scholarships until after the deadlines for early application at some universities.

Parents have described a "war on merit" and an effort to create "equal outcomes for every student, without exception." The school denies wrongdoing and contends that it has worked with students to help them include the academic merits in their applications, going so far as to reach out to their selected schools to provide them with updated credentials.

In a Tuesday letter to Miyares, Youngkin referenced the investigation into the Loudoun County School Board's handling of a sexual assault scandal, stating "[j]ust 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. This is especially true when it comes to measuring achievements that have a direct impact on post-secondary education."

"I am stunned by news reports alleging that information about National Merit Awards, as determined by student PSAT scores, was withheld from students at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology until after important deadlines for college scholarships had passed," he further contended.

Youngkin further espoused a belief that any such decision "may have caused material harm to those students and their parents, and that this failure may have violated the Virginia Human Rights Act," before asking Miyares to explore the matter.

Fairfax County Public Schools issued a statement in response to Youngkin's letter, telling ABC7 that:

"We are aware of Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s comments today and we share 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. Indeed, we have initiated a third-party, independent investigation into this matter. Our preliminary understanding is that the delay this fall was a unique situation due to human error. The investigation will continue to examine our records in further detail and we will share key findings with our community. In addition, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid is meeting with families this evening to listen to their concerns. 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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