BOMBSHELL: Nation's Top High School Withheld National Merit Awards to Promote 'Inclusiveness'

Brittany M. Hughes | December 22, 2022
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Imagine finding out that your hard-working kid is one of the nation’s top scholars, and had even earned a top merit award for placing amid only a few thousand others in the whole country.

Now imagine you’re just learning that information - two years after the fact.

That’s what one mom in Fairfax, Virginia, says recently happened to her family at the now-infamous Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, which is ranked as the country’s #1 school. Just not, apparently, when it comes to basic decency and common sense among the administration.

Shawna Yashar said her son started at TJHS in 2019, and spent the next two years busting his butt to earn top grades in the school’s most difficult courses. After taking the PSAT last fall, he earned a coveted spot as a National Merit scholar, one of about 50,000 students ranked as having placed among the top 3% of students across the entire country. There was just one problem - administrators at the school never told him he'd earned the award.

The City-Journal reports:

School officials had decided to withhold announcement of the award. Indeed, it turns out that the principal, Ann Bonitatibus, and the director of student services, Brandon Kosatka, have been withholding this information from families and the public for years, affecting the lives of at least 1,200 students over the principal’s tenure of five years.

Which is a really big deal. On top of normally being celebrated with pomp and circumstance by schools whose students make the cut, placement as a National Merit Scholar can be a major factor in a kid earning scholarships and gaining admission into top-tier colleges and universities. But despite having earned the award, Yashar’s son couldn’t put it on his resume and college applications because the school intentionally declined to tell him he’d earned it. And, because the National Merit Scholarship Corporation notifies the school of the award rather than the student directly, there was no other way he could have found out.

Related: Another Girl Assaulted By Trans Student In HS Bathroom, Media Quiet

Yashar writes:

I learned—two years after the fact—that National Merit had recognized my son, a graduate of TJ’s Class of 2021, as a Commended Student in a September 10, 2020, letter that National Merit sent to Bonitatibus. But the principal, who lobbied that fall to nix the school’s merit-based admission test to increase “diversity,” never told us about it.

She also reportedly found out that the school had also failed to inform other parents and their children that they’d earned the award as well, and that this had been going on for at least half a decade.

Brandon Kosatka, have been withholding this information from families and the public for years, affecting the lives of at least 1,200 students over the principal’s tenure of five years.

In a phone call to the school administration to demand accountability, Yashar said Kosatka told her that administrators “want to recognize students for who they are as individuals, not focus on their achievements,” saying that handing out Merit awards might “hurt” the feelings of students who hadn’t earned them.

This isn't the first time Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology has found itself in hot water. Just last February, a judge ruled the school had been intentionally discriminating against Asian-American students in an effort to increase their African American and Latino student populations. Part of that change included nixing the school's notoriously difficult admissions test in favor of considering students' "experience factors," including their socioeconomic background.

After news broke that the school had been intentionally withholding Merit awards, the administration is now scrambling to do damage control, and recently sent out emails to those students who’d earned the award this previous fall. City-Journal adds:

On Monday, December 12, after getting caught, Kosatka sent an email to the parents of Commended Students, notifying them of the “important recognition” and saying, “We are deeply sorry” for not sharing the news earlier. He claimed school officials would contact college admissions offices to correct the record.

But a fat lot of good that does for students who’ve already graduated, without ever being told of their achievement or being able to use it for college admissions or scholarships that could have changed their entire futures.

All in the name of “inclusivity.”

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