RICHMOND, Va. (DC News Now) — Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares formally launched an investigation into a high school in Fairfax County a day after Gov. Glenn Youngkin made the request of Miyares.
Miyares said Wednesday that his Office of Civil Rights will look at Fairfax County Public Schools and the administration of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (“TJHSST”) for unlawful discrimination in violation of the Virginia Human Rights Act (“VHRA”).
The investigation will work to determine if the administration’s decision to withhold National Merit Scholarship honors from students and the school’s new admissions policies violate the VHRA.
“No student should be treated differently because of their race. Students at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology are amongst the brightest in the nation, yet some have been punished in the name of ‘equity.’ Racism and race-based government decision making in any form is wrong and unlawful under Virginia’s Human Rights Act,” said Miyares. “The controversial admissions policies at TJHSST, which have significantly decreased the amount of Asian American students enrolled in recent years, is another example of students being treated differently because of their ethnicity. My Office of Civil Rights will investigate any potential violations of the law and vindicate the civil rights of these students and their families.”
It was Tuesday that Youngkin requested that Miyares use his position as attorney general to investigate reports that Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology didn’t provide information about National Merit Awards, as determined by PSAT scores, until after deadlines for college scholarships passed.
Fairfax County Public Schools put out a statement Tuesday after Youngkin’s request was made public:
We are aware of Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s comments today and we share his desire to get to the facts surrounding the delay in notification of National Merit Commendations at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology for 2022. Indeed, we have initiated a third-party, independent investigation into this matter. Our preliminary understanding is that the delay this fall was a unique situation due to human error. The investigation will continue to examine our records in further detail and we will share key findings with our community. In addition, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid is meeting with families this evening to listen to their concerns. Should the Virginia Attorney General’s office initiate an investigation, FCPS stands ready to work with our partners at the state level.
As a reminder, once this error was brought to light, school staff reached out to colleges to update records where commended scholars had applied.
Members of the school community rallied outside TJHSST Tuesday night to show their support for an investigation by Miyares’ office. The superintendent was part of a town hall after that which allowed her to listen to parents and students and to answer questions and address concerns.
Prior to the change, the school used a merit-based admissions process to select students. In an effort to bring the makeup of the student body into better alignment with the racial composition of the region, the school adopted a system designed to reduce the number of Asian Americans who attended it. (Asian Americans accounted for roughly 70% of the student body when the new process was put into place.)