RICHMOND, Va. (DC News Now) — Virginia Attorney General Miyares said he was expanding his recently launched civil rights investigation into Fairfax County Public Schools to cover at least two other high schools.
Miyares tweeted Monday that he was broadening the investigation into the withholding of merit award information at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) after reports surfaced that families at Westfield High School and Langley High School encountered similar delays in notifications about National Merit Awards.
“It’s concerning that multiple schools throughout Fairfax County withheld merit awards from students,” said Miyares Monday. “My office will investigate the entire Fairfax County Public Schools system to find out if any students were discriminated against and if their rights were violated.”
Miyares previously said he was looking into the situation at TJHSST as well as investigating its admissions process. He said he would be looking at the school division, as a whole, also. The investigation began after Gov. Glenn Youngkin made the request of Miyares’ office on Jan. 3.
Dr. Michelle Reid, Superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools, sent this message to people in the school division on Monday after Miyares announced the expansion of his investigation:
Hello FCPS Students, Families, and Staff:
Last month, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) was made aware that there had been a delay in sharing National Merit Scholarship Corporation recognition with students from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) designated as Commended Students by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
As part of the continuing review of our division-wide internal practices, it has come to light that there are two other schools where students did not receive timely notification of their designation as Commended Students this fall.
As soon as this new development was confirmed, Westfield and Langley high schools notified all impacted families and their broader respective school communities. Please be aware that FCPS is committed to sharing information that impacts our communities as soon as possible.
Staff has been contacting colleges where these students have applied to inform them of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation commendations. We are sincerely sorry for this error. Each and every student, their experience and success, remain our priority.
As we continue our division-wide review into these matters, we remain committed to being transparent with the key findings and sharing updates as appropriate to ensure each and every FCPS student is supported and recognized for the excellence they demonstrate.
FCPS continues to stand ready to work with our partners at the state level on their investigation. This past weekend, I proactively communicated this new information to the Office of the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Today, the Attorney General has extended his investigation to include all Fairfax County Public Schools.
We understand and value the hard work and dedication of each and every student, and the families and staff who support them. Please be assured that we remain resolutely committed to supporting every student in achieving their unique and fullest potential.
Michelle Reid, Ed.D.
Fairfax County Public Schools
On the eve of Miyares’ announcement of the initial investigation, Reid held a town hall at Thomas Jefferson High School, where she was asked questions by parents and provided with insight from students.
One parent, who introduced himself to Reid as Jason, a father of two FCPS students, described concern that the delayed communication was happening at other schools.
“I want to know there’s going to be consistency within the county as to how students are going to be recognized,” he said.
Reid responded by admitting she wants to create a clear and consistent policy because there is none now.
“As far as practices across the division, they are inconsistent, Reid said.
According to the National Merit Scholarship Program, 50,000 students nationwide are recognized. Most of them — roughly two-thirds, or 34,000 — are commended students. Those are the FCPS students who were not informed. Those students are not in competition for National Merit scholarships, but some “do become candidates for special scholarships sponsored by corporations and businesses.”
The remaining 16,000 students are semifinalists. Back in September 2022, FCPS shared online the names of its 238 semifinalists.