UNITED STATES NEWS

Probe: Delays in district’s schools awards not deliberate

Mar 30, 2023, 11:29 AM | Updated: 2:40 pm

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A third-party investigation into delays by a northern Virginia public school district in recognizing student achievements on a standardized test found no evidence the delays were deliberate, the superintendent said this week.

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Michelle Reid also said in a Wednesday letter to the community that the probe found “no evidence of any inequity or racial bias” in the way schools handled notification to those designated “commended students” by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

Fairfax County was among a handful of northern Virginia public school districts that acknowledged around the start of the year delayed notification of some commended student awards. The issue drew widespread attention after Gov. Glenn Youngkin and other elected officials highlighted parents’ concerns and asked for an investigation.

Students who receive the award finish in the top 3% nationally on a standardized test, but below the top 1% that qualifies them as a scholarship semifinalist. Some parents said the delayed notifications could have affected students’ college or scholarship applications, and other parents and activists alleged the district chose to withhold the commendations to downplay individual achievement in favor of equity.

When complaints about the delayed notifications first emerged at the prestigious Thomas Jefferson School for Science and Technology, Youngkin said he wanted to get to the bottom of what “appeared to be an egregious, deliberate attempt to disadvantage high-performing students at one of the best schools in the country.”

Fairfax County went on to acknowledge notification delays at additional schools, as did other northern Virginia districts.

Youngkin asked Attorney General Jason Miyares, a fellow Republican, to launch an investigation. He suggested the failure to notify students of their awards could be a violation of the Virginia Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination on race and other factors.

That investigation is still ongoing, according to Miyares spokeswoman Victoria LaCivita.

“It’s encouraging that FCPS is working to be more transparent about the inconsistencies surrounding their National Merit award decisions and process,” she said in a statement Thursday.

An internal review by Fairfax schools first found there was no validity to claims that the delays were deliberate or done in the name of equity, according to a summary of the key findings of the external investigation. But Reid went on to retain the law firm Sands Anderson to conduct its own probe, which came to the same finding.

As part of its work, the firm conducted 29 witness interviews and “had open access to FCPS documents and records,” the summary said.

The report found that 15 Fairfax County high schools notified their commended students before Nov. 1, 2022; eight did not. The lack of a division-wide policy for providing such notice was a contributing factor in the delays, the summary said.

Reid said in her letter that the district has developed a new regulation that outlines the notification process all high schools will now follow going forward.

The investigation did not identify any Thomas Jefferson student or parent “who believed a student’s admission to their college or university of choice was adversely affected” by the delayed notices, according to the summary.

It also said staff at the impacted schools other than Thomas Jefferson reported that they had not received complaints from parents or the school community regarding the awards notification.

A spokeswoman for Youngkin, Macaulay Porter, said the governor looks forward to the independent findings of Miyares’ investigation into three school divisions.

“When allegations that merit awards were withheld from students came to light, the governor took immediate action,” she said.

She also said the governor, who has made parental rights in education a key focus of his time in office, was disappointed in Virginia Democrats who blocked a legislative proposal he sought intended to ensure parental notification of scholastic awards.

Democratic Sen. Scott Surovell, whose district includes part of Fairfax County, said the report’s findings showed the whole episode was “hysteria drummed up by the same right-wing activists that have been trying to tear our public schools down” for years.

“Northern Virginia has excellent public schools on every objective metric. And the governor and his friends that don’t want that to be the case,” he said.

United States News

Associated Press

Oregon lawmakers pass bill to recriminalize drug possession

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A bill recriminalizing the possession of small amounts of drugs was passed by the Oregon Legislature on Friday, undoing a key part of the state’s first-in-the-nation drug decriminalization law as governments struggle to respond to the deadliest overdose crisis in U.S. history. The state Senate approved House Bill 4002 in a […]

35 minutes ago

Juan Manuel plows the snow off the sidewalk in front of The Bar of American where he is employed on...

Associated Press

Stretch of I-80 shut down as monster blizzard dumps snow on mountains in California and Nevada

The storm began barreling into the region on Thursday, with the biggest effects expected to close major highways and trigger power outages Friday afternoon into Saturday.

2 hours ago

FILE - Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and President Joe Biden talk during the launch of the ...

Associated Press

Biden approves military airdrops of aid into Gaza after chaotic encounter left more than 100 dead

The U.S. will begin airdropping emergency humanitarian assistance into Gaza, President Joe Biden said Friday.

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Patient and 3 staffers charged in another patient’s beating death at mental health facility

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A patient, two psychiatric assistants and a nurse have been indicted on charges stemming from the beating death of another patient at a state-run mental health facility in Ohio. A 24-year-old man who allegedly attacked the 57-year-old victim at Twin Valley Behavioral Healthcare in Columbus on July 23, 2022, is charged […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Writer for conservative media outlet surrenders to face Capitol riot charges

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Texas-based writer for a conservative media outlet surrendered to authorities Friday on charges that he joined a mob’s attack on the U.S. Capitol more than three years ago. Steve Baker, who has written articles about the Jan. 6, 2021, riot for Blaze News, faces four misdemeanor counts, including trespassing and disorderly […]

5 hours ago

FILE - Kristlyn Wood, a cousin of 11-year-old Audrii Cunningham, reacts during a vigil in Cunningha...

Associated Press

Family and advocates want solution to legal loophole after the death of Audrii Cunningham

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — As mourners prepare for the funeral of 11-year-old Audrii Cunningham, who was killed near Houston, the community wants answers about how the suspect in her death was allowed to remain free despite a long criminal history of violence. Nearly two decades years before Don McDougal was charged with capital murder in […]

6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Probe: Delays in district’s schools awards not deliberate