FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) — A report from a law firm released on Wednesday said that investigators found no evidence that Fairfax County high schools intentionally refrained from notifying students who had received National Merit recognitions.

Each year, the National Merit Scholarship recognizes 50,000 students across the nation. About two-thirds, or 34,000 of them, are commended students. They are not in the running for National Merit scholarships, but some can become candidates for separate scholarships due to this recognition.

Reports started in December of 2022, stating concerns that Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) had delayed notifications of some students who had been recognized as commended students with the National Merit Scholarship.

In January of 2023, FCPS asked the law firm Sands Anderson to conduct an investigation into these claims. The firm said that it interviewed 29 witnesses, including principals, Directors of Student Services, administrative staff, central office leadership, information technology leaders and parents.

The report had several key findings that led to the conclusion that FCPS high schools did not intentionally keep these notifications from students:

  • A combination of factors resulted in eight FCPS high schools not notifying the students by November 1.
  • One contributing factor was “the lack of any uniform, division-wide policy, process, or deadline for providing such notice.”
  • There was no evidence that racial bias or other discrimination had any impact on the timing of the notifications.

“It is unfortunate that a media report erroneously attributing these issues to intentional conduct triggered this unnecessary controversy,” the report said.

The report listed next steps for the school system: FCPS principals or designees must notify the student and parent or guardian in writing within two weeks of receiving the information from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation and confirm this communication with the Region Office.

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares was conducting a separate investigation into these allegations. That investigation was still ongoing.