Top U.S. High School Deprived Students of National Merit Awards as Part of ‘Equity’ Policy – Yahoo News

Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) deprived students of National Merit awards apparently in the name of “equal outcomes for every student, without exception,” a strategy adopted recently by the Fairfax County public-school district.
One local parent, Shawna Yashar, unearthed the school’s policy of withholding such awards after she learned that her son was recognized as a “commended student” for being among the nation’s top 3 percent of students. Yashar’s son could not include the National Merit distinction on his college applications because TJ senior administrators didn’t distribute the letters of commendation from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation to students, notifying them of their accomplishments, until later in the year.
“We want to recognize students for who they are as individuals, not focus on their achievements,” TJ’s director of student services, Brandon Kosatka, reportedly told a parent concerned about the delayed distribution of the awards.
Although TJ principal Ann Bonitatibus received the National Merit–award list at the end of October, two weeks before the early-acceptance deadline for many selective colleges, the school didn’t distribute the award letters to students until mid November.
“Keeping these certificates from students is theft by the state,” Yashar told Asra Nomani, who broke the story in the New York Post. Nomani’s own son graduated from TJ in 2021 and only learned “two years after the fact” that he was a National Merit recipient.
Bonitatibus has lobbied extensively to incorporate equity-based policies at TJ.
During the summer of protests following the murder of George Floyd, Bonitatibus emailed students and parents urging them to consider “the privileges you hold that others may not.” In February 2022, a federal judge acknowledged that TJ had altered its admissions processes to restrict the number of Asian Americans in a bid for “racial diversity.”
Nomani also released a series of redacted emails from concerned parents to TJ administrators, which reveal growing frustration over Fairfax County’s school policies.
“Mr. Kosataka, you lied to me. I do not appreciate that. As someone who has been responsible for these notifications for 15 years you undoubtably [sic] knew how they worked,” one parent chastised the director of student services last month. “I want a straightforward answer as to why TJHSST chose to withhold award notifications to approximately 240 students (the number you told me today) for over 2 months. You literally withheld an award from children.”
TJ was ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the nation’s best high school in 2022.
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