Virginia school delayed National Merit award notifications past the early college admissions deadline five years in a row.
By Eileen Griffin
A top-rated public high school in Virginia delayed notifying students of their merit awards, preventing them from including the honor in college applications.
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) in Alexandria, Virginia neglected to notify students in a timely manner about awards they received from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, Fox News reports.
The National Merit Scholarship Corporation provided TJ with information about the awards in October, but the school did not notify students until after the early-application deadline had passed.
‘War on Merit’
TJ parent Asra Nomani told Fox that this is all part of the dumbing down of America.
“This is important not just for this group of kids in this school, but for all of America, because this war on merit is happening everywhere,” Nomani said.
Nomani’s son, a 2021 TJ graduate, was not told he had received a commendation, she wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Post. TJ Principal Ann Bonitatibus did not inform the student, and the family became aware of the recognition only after the deadline for early college applications had passed.
Parents learned Bonitatibus and Dean of Student Services Brandon Kosatka had previously withheld information on the Merit Scholarship awards, affecting at least 1,200 students over 5 years, the Post reports.
Without this prestigious award, students are less competitive than other with the merit scholarship when applying to college. Many of these efforts are launched by the Left in the name of equity.
Discrimination under Investigation
Several parents groups claim administrators at TJ deliberately withheld the award information and they are demanding an investigation and the termination of both Bonitatibus and Kosatka, WUSA9 reports.
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyards announced in a tweet two civil rights investigations into the Thomas Jefferson High School admission policy and the withholding of merit awards.
“Discrimination in school based on race is a violation of our Human Rights Act, and we will look into possible violations immediately,” Miyares tweeted.
“They wanted to downplay the significance of these awards to students in the name of equity so other students wouldn’t have to feel bad to protect their feelings,” TJ parent Harry Jackson told WUSA9. “We do want our children to achieve their fullest potential and it’s completely unacceptable to have administrators sabotage this as part of a social experiment.”
“A historic day,” Normal Margulies tweeted in response to the AG announcement. “Our Attorney General, Jason Miyares, is right. The TJ cases are key battles to be fought against the war on merit and the American dream. Thank you from an immigrant from Peru & a proud U.S. citizen. Your courage renews my faith in this wonderful land.”
‘Early Information Is Crucial’
The four-year National Merit Scholarships are based on students’ performance on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) administered by the College Board, and it is arguably as important as the College Board’s SAT, says Joe Barnett, a senior editor at The Heartland Institute.
“Students take the PSAT in their junior year of high school, and those scores are used to award National Merit Scholarships, which can be used at any college or university, public or private,” said Barnett. “Students’ decisions regarding which institutions to apply to are affected by the financial assistance, including scholarships, for which they qualify, and having early information is crucial.”
Individuals with PSAT scores in the top 3 percent are designated “Commended,” and those in the top 2 percent are called “Semifinalists,” says Barnett.
“Semifinalists who qualify for a Corporate Sponsored National Merit Scholarship because of a parent’s employment receive those awards, and semifinalists who do not qualify for a corporate or special scholarship receive one directly from the merit organization,” said Barnett.
Barnett, a semifinalist, received a Thomas J. Watson Memorial Scholarship from IBM, where his father was an engineer.
“I attended the University of Texas at Arlington, which gave me an additional, one-year scholarship designed to recruit National Merit Scholars,” said Barnett. “Other scholarship programs use PSAT, SAT, or ACT scores in their award process.”
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