RICHMOND, Va. (DC News Now) — Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked Virginia’s attorney general to look into reports that a high school in Fairfax County withheld information from more than 1,000 students that they could have used in order to apply for college scholarships.
Youngkin called on Jason Miyares to investigate allegations that Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology didn’t provide information about National Merit Awards, as determined by PSAT scores, until after deadlines for college scholarships passed.
“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 news release Tuesday. “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.”
Youngkin made the request of Miyares in a letter dated Jan. 3, 2023:
Dear Attorney General Miyares:
I know that we share the foundational view that the first responsibility of our school boards and our public schools is the welfare and success of our students. Essential to meeting that responsibility is the total involvement of parents. Parents matter. Students matter. We also know that achievement matters.
As authorized by my Executive Order 4, your investigation into the Loudoun County School Board and school administrators found that the School Division and School Board, at the very least withheld key details and most likely knowingly lied to parents about the disturbing sexual assaults that occurred in 2021. Without the investigation, neither the Loudoun County School Board, nor the administrators of the Loudoun County school system, would have been held accountable for deceiving the very Virginians they serve.
Just 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.
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. As you know, the Attorney General has statutory authority pursuant to §§ 2.2-520 and 2.2-3906 and 3907 of the Code of Virginia to investigate violations of the Virginia Human Rights Act. I urge you to use the authority conferred on you by the General Assembly to protect the civil rights of TJHSST students and parents.Letter from Youngkin
Victoria LaCivita, spokeswoman for Miyares, said, “”The Attorney General has received the letter and has been carefully reviewing and evaluating the allegations of racial discrimination at Thomas Jefferson School of Science and Technology since the very first public reports.”
In April 2022, Miyares filed a legal brief with the U.S. Supreme Court that challenged a change in the high school’s admissions process.
Prior to the change, the school used a merit-based admissions process to select students. In an effort to bring the makeup of the student body into better alignment with the racial composition of the region, the school adopted a system designed to reduce the number of Asian Americans who attended it. (Asian Americans accounted for roughly 70% of the student body when the new process was put into place.)
Fairfax County Public Schools provided DC News Now with this statement Tuesday:
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.