Eight FCPS schools failed to notify students of National Merit recognition per third-party investigation

Eight out of 28 high schools in Fairfax County did not properly notify students of their National Merit recognition, according to a third-party investigation. 

Some parents and students raised an eyebrow when Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid revealed due to attorney-client privilege the full report would not be made available to the public. There were also concerns that she was able to review and revise the report before the findings were released. Although, she did say even if people had the opportunity to read through it all, they would get the same gist.

"We know about politics, we’re all in that game. We know how it works," said one father. "It would’ve been more interesting – I think in terms of building trust – to have a summary that was prepared by the people who actually prepared the actual document that hadn’t been reviewed by you or at least that had been seen by you, but not manipulated by you."

Asra Nomani is one of the outspoken parents who says her student was not notified of his prestigious recognition on time. She was disappointed with the outcome.

 "This meeting was a shame. This was just a PR event for the superintendent to try to clean up her image. All she did with this report is just ignore the parents and the families. I sat for three hours with the law firm who put this report out and there’s not a single sentence in here that reflects my family’s experience," said Nomani.


School merit recognition investigation expanded to all Fairfax County Public Schools: Virginia AG

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares has confirmed that the state's investigation into Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology for withholding merit awards will expand to include all Fairfax County Public Schools.

Other parents in the room, like Mary Heretick, felt this properly reflects the reality of the situation.

 "I appreciate the information that was in here. I believe this is actually correct because I do not believe at any point that educators would do anything to initially harm students and to not give them the credibility and credit they are due for their achievements," said Heretick.

The legal team, Sands Anderson, discovered that the later-than-usual national merit commendations at the eight Fairfax County high schools did not have anything to do with race.  Their conclusion also states there’s no evidence the timing ruined college admission or scholarship opportunities for students.

FOX 5’s Sierra Fox asked Reid about the statement parents made about national merit awards not being released in order to not hurt other students' feelings.

"I think it’s always acceptable to be sensitive to the needs of our students particularly now when we have a mental health crisis really among our young people so there’s a difference to being sensitive to the needs of our students and making sure we also recognize and honor our students achievement and we did do both so it just wasn’t done in timely manner at that particular school," said Reid.


Top-ranked Virginia high school accused of depriving students of merit awards

Thomas Jefferson High School, one of the top high schools in Northern Virginia, deprived students of the national merit recognition they earned, according to a parent whose son was affected.

Reid told FOX 5 that there was no protocol in place on how students were supposed to be notified about their prestigious distinctions.

"We didn’t have one on this particular topic, so we have asked staff to draft a regulation which is attached to the handout this evening and that regulation goes into effect this spring and will be utilized here forward so we don’t have a repeat of this situation," said Reid.

Virginia’s attorney general Jason Miyares is doing his own investigation into the National Merit Award.

A representative sent FOX 5 this statement:

"It’s encouraging that FCPS is working to be more transparent about the inconsistencies surrounding their National Merit award decisions and process. The Office of the Attorney General will continue its investigation."

Here is a list of the six key findings from the third-party investigation:

  1. The vast majority of high schools in 2022 had no issues relating to notifications of national merit commended students.
  2. Eight out of 28 high schools provided later-than-usual notifications.
  3. The external investigation showed that there’s no merit to claims that later than usual notice of national merit commendations at these 8 schools had anything to do with race or efforts to minimize student achievements.
  4. There were logistical factors that varied from school to school that explained the timing of these notices which were provided and why they were provided later than has typically been the case for these schools.
  5. There’s no evidence the timing impaired any students' opportunities in terms of college admissions or scholarships.
  6. There was a lack of a division-wide policy regarding the process and deadlines for distributing these national notifications and that this was likely the factor that contributed to the issue at these eight high schools.