Attorney General Jason Miyares announced Wednesday a civil rights investigation into Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology amid allegations that school officials suppressed student merit awards until after college early application periods.
“My office will investigate whether the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology administration’s withholding of National Merit Scholarship honors from students violated the Virginia Human Rights Act,” he wrote in a letter to Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid and TJ Principal Ann Bonitatibus, warning that he planned to issue subpoenas if the officials don’t cooperate.
Miyares’ announcement came after Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears and Governor Glenn Youngkin called for an investigation.
“To the extent that withholding any of these awards at Thomas Jefferson High School was based on race, national origin, or any other protected statues under the Virginia Human Rights Act, that is unlawful,” Miyares said in a press conference.
In 2020 the school announced admissions policies with an eye to more equitable outcomes, a move that Republicans say targets high-achieving Asian-American students and degrades the school’s focus on high standards. Miyares said his investigation would look both at the admissions policies and allegations about officials’ handling of National Merit Awards.
“I’ve said before, in America about the only state-sanctioned form of bigotry is anti-Asian bigotry, and it is wrong, and we’re going to hold folks accountable. That’s why I’m also announcing today an investigation from my Office of Civil Rights into Thomas Jefferson’s admissions policy,” he said.
FCPS media relations didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but in a December 30 press release, said that the district has already launched an investigation into the delayed notification of the National Merit Scholarship awards.
“Our current understanding is that the delay at Thomas Jefferson High School this fall was a unique situation due to human error, but we will continue to examine our records in further detail. We are committed to sharing any key findings and any updates to our processes to ensure future consistency in appropriate and timely notification of National Merit Scholarship Corporation recognitions going forward,” the release said.
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Thomas Jefferson High School” by Thomas Jefferson High School.