Virginia AG confirms investigation into Thomas Jefferson High due to merit recognition controversy

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares has confirmed he will be moving forward with investigating Thomas Jefferson High School after students were allegedly not notified of their national merit recognitions until after important deadlines for college scholarships had passed, calling the situation unlawful.

"No student should be treated differently because of their race. Students at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology are amongst the brightest in the nation, yet some have been punished in the name of ‘equity.’ Racism and race-based government decision-making in any form is wrong and unlawful under Virginia’s Human Rights Act," said Attorney General Miyares. "The controversial admissions policies at TJHSST, which have significantly decreased the amount of Asian American students enrolled in recent years, is another example of students being treated differently because of their ethnicity.  My Office of Civil Rights will investigate any potential violations of the law and vindicate the civil rights of these students and their families."

On Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin called on AG Miyares to investigate the alleged misconduct at one of the top high schools in Northern Virginia.

Shawna Yashar recently discovered her son was not told he was among the nation's top 3% of students. The parent said they were told that teachers dropped certificates unceremoniously on students' desks about a month past special deadlines for National Merit Scholars. 

READ MORE: Virginia Gov. Youngkin calls for investigation into Thomas Jefferson High over awards controversy

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.

Fairfax County Public Schools recently adopted a new strategy: "Equal outcomes for every student, without exceptions." 

While some have called for school officials to be fired and even allege there could be criminal wrongdoing, others argue what happened is being politicized.

Fairfax County Public Schools released this statement on Gov. Youngkin's call for an investigation:

"We are aware of Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s comments today and we share his desire to get to the facts surrounding the delay in notification of National Merit Commendations at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology for 2022. Indeed, we have initiated a third-party, independent investigation into this matter.  Our preliminary understanding is that the delay this fall was a unique situation due to human error. The investigation will continue to examine our records in further detail and we will share key findings with our community. In addition, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid is meeting with families this evening to listen to their concerns. Should the Virginia Attorney General’s office initiate an investigation, FCPS stands ready to work with our partners at the state level. As a reminder, once this error was brought to light, school staff reached out to colleges to update records where commended scholars had applied."

AG Miyares says he will also be investigating the admissions policy at the school.