Virginia attorney general investigating elite high school

Virginia attorney general investigating elite high school

ANNANDALE, Va. (AP) – Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares is launching an investigation into one of the state’s most prestigious high schools, acting after complaints that students there were not properly recognized for their performance on a standardized test.

Miyares said at a news conference Wednesday that his Office for Civil Rights is investigating Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology not only for its failure to notify students in a timely manner of a commendation they received in a scholarship competition, but also for recently revised school admissions. policies.

The public high school commonly known as TJ is located in Washington, DC, a suburb of Fairfax County and is regularly ranked as one of the best in the country. Admission to the school is highly competitive and parents strategize to gain entry for their children years in advance.

The majority of students are Asian American, and for many years African American and Hispanic students have been woefully underrepresented. In 2020, the Fairfax County School Board dramatically overhauled the admissions process, removing a high-stakes standardized test and setting aside a certain number of seats based on geography.

The changes prompted claims of discrimination against Asian-Americans who had done well under the old system, and a federal lawsuit challenging the new procedures is going through the appeals process.

The politically charged atmosphere at the school has persisted, so last month when news broke that the school delayed notifying students that they had earned “commended student” status in the National Merit Scholarship competition, some parents complained that the delays were part of a sequel. “war for merit” in school that favors equal results for all students over individual achievement.

Miyares announced the probe a day after Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a fellow Republican, called for the probe.

Miyares said the Office for Civil Rights will investigate whether racial discrimination prompted the admissions changes or the failure to quickly notify students of National Merit commendations.

Asked what reason he had to believe racial animosity fueled the delay in giving out praise, he cited a parent’s report that school officials were concerned that handing out praise would make those who didn’t receive it feel bad.

“We’re going to get to the bottom of this,” he said. “That’s why we have the investigation.”

As for the admissions investigation, he acknowledged that the federal lawsuit is pending, but said his investigation will focus on state law, not federal law.

Miyares called TJ “one of the jewels of the Commonwealth” and cited its importance to immigrant families seeking to settle in America in his remarks.

“That gateway to Thomas Jefferson High School is that gateway to the American dream,” he said.

The school system has said it is conducting its own investigation into the praise, but tentatively attributes it to “a unique situation due to human error.”

Students who receive the “commended student” award finish in the top 3% nationally on a standardized test, but below the top 1% that qualifies them as scholarship semifinalists.

The September 2022 letters from the National Merit competition were not distributed to the school until mid-November. Parents said the announcement was too late for students to include honors in early-decision college applications that are increasingly common for students seeking to attend elite universities.

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