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VA High School Fails to Acknowledge Students Who Win National Merit Awards, Depriving Them of Scholarships and Other Benefits

There have been a number of absurd things committed in the name of “equity” or being “woke.” However, what happened to more than 1,200 students attending the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in northern Virginia seems a bit out of the ordinary and could earn the school some legal action.

Two school administrators, including the school's principal, Ann Bonitatibus, and the director of student services, Brandon Kosatka, allegedly have failed to tell parents and the public when students have won National Merit awards for the past five years. As per reports in the New York Post, most of the students involved were Asian:

“This episode has emerged amid the school district’s new strategy of ‘equal outcomes for every student, without exception.’ School administrators, for instance, have implemented an ‘equitable grading’ policy that eliminates zeros, gives students a grade of 50 percent just for showing up, and assigns a cryptic code of ‘NTI’ for assignments not turned in.”

However, the issue was discovered by a student’s mother, Shawna Yashar. She is a lawyer, and her son was a highly praised student. She confronted Kosatka, who, according to reports, claimed that they hid the information for a reason, namely that they did not want to make other students feel bad and “hurt” the feelings of those who didn't win. “We want to recognize students for who they are as individuals, not focus on their achievements,” he stated. 

Yikes.

Parents were furious. Srilekha Palle said, “It just makes me feel bad. It boils my blood, I hate to say that.” 

“The role of these educators is to have children achieve their full potential, not limit their full potential. That’s what they’ve done,” said Harry Jackson, a Thomas Jefferson parent. “They’ve betrayed the trust of our community. They cannot be trusted. I cannot trust them with my child.”

The conservative journalist Asra Nomani discovered that her son had been named a “commended student” in 2020. However, the school hadn't informed her about it.

National Merit recognition can help a student gain access to scholarships, such as the 800 Special Scholarships through corporate sponsors, as well as increase his or her chances of being accepted into schools that are competitive. By denying them this knowledge, school administrators limited the students' chances of going to college or receiving scholarships.

As per the NY Post:

“What’s more, it could be a civil rights violation, says local parent advocate Debra Tisler, with most TJ students in a protected class of ‘gifted’ students, most of them racial minorities, many with disabilities, and most coming from immigrant families whose parents speak English as a second language. ‘It’s just cruel,’ says Tisler.”

When they were finally caught, Kosatka apologized and said school officials would call the college admissions offices in order to correct the error. Bonitatibus has not yet acknowledged the students involved.

Fairfax County Public Schools released a statement:

“FCPS understands the hard work and dedication of each and every student who competes for college acceptance and scholarship opportunities,” the statement reads. “Once the issue regarding the fall 2022 notifications was realized, counselors sent emails and made follow-up calls to each college where these students had applied and informed them of the National Merit Scholarship Commendations. We are continuing to look into this matter and will take any necessary steps to ensure consistency in appropriate and timely notification of National Merit recognitions going forward.”

However, they aren't able to give back the scholarships and the benefits that were denied to those who deserved them for what they had achieved. The school administrators claim that this was due to the fear of hurting the other children. Nomani declared it the “war on merit,” and it severely hurt those kids who were entitled to the recognition and awards they had rightfully earned.

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