Parents sound off on merit awards scandal at Fairfax County School Board meeting

Fairfax County Public Schools parents rallied ahead of the school board’s first meeting of 2023.

The meeting is the first since three of the county’s high schools, Thomas Jefferson, Langley and Westfield admitted they failed to notify students in a timely manner that they earned National Merit Scholarship recognition.

The situation first came to light at Thomas Jefferson, known for its STEM focus and for being a top school in the Commonwealth.

"As a TJ parent, I hope the principal can resign. We need a good principal to do the job," said Julia Mccaskill, a Thomas Jefferson parent.

National Merit awards are given by an independent body but schools are the ones who communicate with recipients. The awards are based on a student’s PSAT scores. Students who were not notified on time were unable to put the distinction on scholarship and college applications.

READ MORE: Parents at Langley High School voice concerns over withheld merit awards

In response, Fairfax County Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid held discussions with parents at each school. She said that the district is calling colleges to notify them and correct the mistake and is doing an independent review.

"I’m not really sure what more they can do except to make sure that this doesn't happen again in the future, and I frankly think that the group that issues these certificates needs to come up with a better process for communicating with parents and students," said Vanessa Hall, a Fairfax County Public Schools parent.

But other parents want more transparency and say the incident was motivated by the effort to create equal outcomes for all students in the district.

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

"They could have used that award on their applications and it's so immoral to say, ‘but it is an insignificant award.' How dare! Why don't you let the families to decide," said Norma Marqulies, a Fairfax County Public Schools parent.

The Virginia Attorney General is investigating every school in the county for this issue and there is a second investigation into the administration at Thomas Jefferson High School for possible violation of the Virginia Human Rights Act.