Parents want Thomas Jefferson High School leaders fired over awards controversy

Parents rallied outside Fairfax County Public Schools headquarters Friday afternoon, calling for leaders at one of the nation's top-ranked high schools to be fired.

A mother of a student at Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology, Shawna Yashar, claims that for years, students haven't been properly informed about their National Merit Scholar recognitions. 

The prestigious distinction gives students the opportunity to boost their chances of getting into top colleges and earning scholarships. 

Yashar said that when she confronted the Director of Student Services Brandon Kosatka about it by phone, he allegedly told her that student leaders underplayed the recognition because they didn't want to hurt the feelings of other students who weren't being honored.

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

FOX 5 has learned that some Thomas Jefferson parents met with the Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent Michelle C. Reid Friday to discuss the recent controversy. Their message, laid out in a letter, is for the school district to fire Kosatka and Principal Ann Bonitatibus.

"They harmed children," said Harry Jackson, a Thomas Jefferson High School parent. 

Fairfax County Public Schools recently adopted a new strategy: "Equal outcomes for every student, without exceptions." Kosatka allegedly told parents they didn't want to hurt the feelings of other students who didn't receive the prestigious award. 

Srilekha Palle, another Thomas Jefferson High School parent, said she doesn't think that it's fair at all. 

"I've always said no two children can be the same," Palle said. 

"I’m very skeptical of it," Jackson said. "It’s a concern in this case. It denies children a pathway to prosperity, it denies them an opportunity to reach their full potential."

READ MORE: Justices allow new admissions policy at Thomas Jefferson High School to continue

The issue has reached Virginia Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earl-Sears, who tweeted, "This is reprehensible" on Friday. She is asking Governor Glenn Youngkin and Attorney General Jason Miyares to investigate because she says students should not be punished for success. 

Palle said that she was "thrilled" to see the lieutenant governor's response. 

"It provides me hope," Jackson said. 

"Let it be known that we are not for fake meetings. We are for real action," said Asra Nomani, a Thomas Jefferson High School parent. 

Nomani wrote a recent article in City Journal, detailing the matter she is calling a "War on Merit."

A spokesperson for Fairfx County Public Schools said counselors are sending e-mails and making phone calls to colleges where affected students applied to inform them of students' commendations. 

In a statement to FOX 5, a Fairfax County Public Schools board member said, "We are continuing to look into this matter and will take any necessary steps to ensure consistency in appropriate and timely notification of National Merit recognitions going forward."