Parents at two Fairfax County, Virginia, high schools received an upsetting surprise in their inboxes over the weekend.
Langley High School Principal Kim Greer sent out an email Friday night to congratulate students who were awarded commendations in the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, as first reported by the Fairfax County Times.
On Saturday night, Westfield High School Principal Tony DiBari sent out an almost identical email, telling parents “it has come to light that Westfield High School students designated as Commended Students this past fall were also not notified by the school.”
This comes just days after Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares announced two investigations into Thomas Jefferson High School and Technology on Wednesday — one into the withholding of the commendations from students and another into whether changes to the school’s admissions policy violated state law.
In the email, Greer immediately followed up her congratulations by saying, “I must apologize that certificates were not distributed to these Langley High School students in the usual way this past fall.”
Commended students do not continue in the competition for National Merit Scholarships, but some do become candidates for special scholarships sponsored by corporations and businesses, according to the National Merit Scholarship website.
Parents of students expressed their dissatisfaction with the schools, claiming the withholding of the notifications were racially-motivated with a bias against Asian American students.
In the following years, the percentage of Asian students at Thomas Jefferson has decreased while the number of Black and Hispanic students has risen.
In a letter on Jan. 3, Gov. Glenn Youngkin urged Miyares to further the investigation, claiming the schools may have violated the Virginia Human Rights Act.
On the night Youngkin released his letter, parents and students of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology spoke out, with staff saying that the system is “inconsistent” and is in “need of improvement.”