FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (7News) — Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares Wednesday morning announced that his office is launching an investigation following the recent controversy surrounding Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.
This comes after a group of Fairfax County parents' demands for action after they said Thomas Jefferson administrators delayed informing students that they had qualified for National Merit Awards ahead of looming college application deadlines. Parents say the administrators need to be held accountable.
“To the extent that withholding of any of these awards at Thomas Jefferson High School was based on race, national origin or any other protected status right under the Virginia Human Rights Act, that is unlawful,” Miyares said. “That is why I am announcing today that my office of civil rights is opening an investigation into this very issue.”
Miyares said that if any law was broken his office would "protect and vindicate the civil rights of Thomas Jefferson students and their families.”
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Miyares said his office is also launching an investigation into the school's new admissions process.
The school's new admissions procedures got rid of standardized testing requirements and altered other minimum requirements to apply. Some Asian American parents in Fairfax County say it discriminates against their children. Parents protested the "unfair" admissions process at a school board meeting in March 2022.
Miyares said his office will investigate whether the school used race or national origin or any other rights under the Virginia Human Rights Act as a fact to determine admission.
"Sadly today, our announcement is not on just the national merit award also the change in Thomas Jefferson's admissions policy that has undermined the excellence in favor of a system engineered to achieve the school system preferred balances on the races rather than actual racial equality," Miyares said.
Miyares said the new admission policy is "another example of students being treated differently because of their ethnicity and race."
"Every American, every Virginian should be outraged that a child in Virginia today is being denied their dreams because of their racial background. I have said before, in America, about the only state-sanctioned form of bigotry is anti-Asian bigotry, and it is wrong, and we are going to hold folks accountable," Miyares said.
On Tuesday, Va. Gov. Glenn Youngkin urged Miyares to investigate potential civil rights violations at the Fairfax County high school.
In a pointed letter to Miyares, Youngkin said, he was "stunned by news reports alleging that information about National Merit Awards was withheld from students at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology until after important deadlines for college scholarships had passed.”
RELATED | Gov. Youngkin urges Miyares to launch investigation into Fairfax County school scandal
Some parents are calling for Ann Bonitatibus, the principal of the school, to step down.
In an emailed statement Tuesday, Fairfax County Public Schools said:
“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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