Virginia to investigate national merit award scandal

Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears has just ordered an investigation into a national merit award scandal that allegedly has taken place at one of the state’s top high schools. 

The incident took place this past November at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. But, it may have been going on long before this.

What happened?

According to the Washington Examiner, it appears that the school failed to notify winners of the National Merit Scholar certificates in time to meet important deadlines.

Per the Examiner:

In mid- to late November, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology parents discovered that their students had received National Merit Scholar certificates, but according to Asra Nomani, a parent of a TJ student, the notification was “too late to include the honor in students’ early applications for college, due two weeks earlier.”

This could have put these students at a disadvantage to college applicants from other schools who were able to include the award on the early applications.

It’s not the first time

Nomani further detailed the situation in a piece for the Fairfax County Times. There, Nomani cited an investigation of the incident that has been led by Shawna Yashar, the mother of a Thomas Jefferson student.

Nomani writes:

What Yashar uncovered after days of digging is that the TJ principal, Ann Bonitatibus, and the director of student services, Brandon Kosatka, have been quietly hiding National Merit Commended Student awards from students, parents, and the public. As TJ parents compare notes, they say this practice has been occurring for as long as five years, since the principal’s arrival at TJ in 2017.

It turns out that Bonitatibus had known about his year’s award winners since April 2022.

The big question: why?

Fabio Zuluaga, an assistant superintendent at Fairfax County Public Schools, claims that the failure “was a mistake.”

The Examiner, however, reports:

Some Fairfax parents are pointing to the unceremonious delay of the awards as an effort to push “equity” in Fairfax County Public Schools. The school district recently adopted the new motto of “equal outcomes for every student, without exceptions.”

Bonitatibus and other school officials have, thus far, remained silent.

An investigation is forthcoming

It is in response to Nomani’s article that Sears asked Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) and Attorney General Jason Miyares to investigate the situation.

“This is reprehensible,” Sears said. “I have reached out to the Governor and Attorney General and asked for an investigation.”

“Our children’s education is not a zero-sum game,” Sears added. “We cannot punish success in order to have “equal outcomes at all costs.”