Virginia AG launches two civil rights investigations into high school

“Racism and race-based government decision making is wrong and goes against who we are, and I want to get to the bottom of this.”
Empty dark school hallway
Photo: Strange Happenings/Pexels

(The Center Square) – Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares announced Wednesday civil rights investigations into allegations Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology withheld national awards from students, potentially costing them millions in scholarships.

At the same time, Miyares announced a second, separate civil rights investigation into the school’s admission policy, which Miyares says has resulted in a significant drop in the Asian American student population at the school and violates the Virginia Human Rights Act.

“Racism and race-based government decision making is wrong and goes against who we are, and I want to get to the bottom of this,” Miyares said in a Wednesday morning press conference.

Miyares will send a formal letter to the school’s superintendent to announce his office is conducting a civil rights investigation, asking for the school’s corporation.

“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,’” Miyares said. “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.”

The announcement comes a day after Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin called for an investigation, as previously reported by The Center Square.

Allegations against Thomas Jefferson school leadership first appeared last month in an article published in City Journal. The article alleges school officials withheld information about National Merit recognition for years and accuses administrators of distributing National Merit commendations in 2022. 

Miyares said reports stated the notification of the awards came too late for students to add the honor to college and scholarship applications.

The National Merit awards recognize the top 50,000 students with the highest score on the PSAT. Of those 50,000 students, 16,000 are notified they qualify as semifinalists and roughly 34,000 are designated as commended students.

“When the news broke right before Christmas that Thomas Jefferson was withholding national merit awards from children and their parents, it broke my heart,” Miyares said. “To the extend that withholding any of these awards was based on race or national origin or any other protected status that is unlawful.”

J.D. Davidson
An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.

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