Discrimination in the Name of Equity: More Virginia Schools Admit to Withholding National Merit Awards

(AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Mark Felix, File)
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Parents and students were outraged in December 2022 when it was revealed that a top Virginia school had, for the last five years, been withholding informing families and the public if students won National Merit awards. Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears was “livid” about the revelations, saying, “this is not America.” Virginia’s Attorney General Jason Miyares has since launched an investigation into the matter.


Now it’s turning out that more schools in the Commonwealth did the exact same thing, and the number of offending institutions in Fairfax County has risen to seven.

The awards notifications were withheld from the students in the name of “equity” and to avoid hurt feelings. It boggles the mind to think that punishing kids for their achievements is in any way equitable, especially since the awards have real-world consequences: they enhance a college application.

The Fairfax County Parents Association (FCPA) released a blistering letter Saturday morning in response to the news:

They write:

As of today, we understand that at least seven high schools in FCPS decided to withhold or delay notification of National Merit Commended Scholar awards to their students (Thomas Jefferson, Langley, Westfield, Annandale, Edison, Lewis, West Potomac).

This is not one school making a “one-time mistake” by not notifying or delaying notification. This is a pattern that speaks to a school system focused on creating an illusion of equity by either punishing students who worked hard to achieve high academic performance and recognition, or one that has so little regard for academic achievement that it cannot be bothered to prioritize it.

As schools race to issue almost-identical press releases clearly coordinated by the FCSP central administration, families must wonder if that coordination also speaks to an effort to downplay, or ignore, the achievements in the first place to push high-achieving students to the side in the pursuit of the equal outcomes “equity” narrative.


The FCPA makes a powerful argument against the discriminatory behavior of their own schools, noting that the institutions were downplaying or outright ignoring student achievements. As Winsome Sears said about the situation, “You don’t take the bread out of one child’s mouth for another child’s.”

The Board continued:

Many in the community continue to provide knee-jerk cover for the failures of FCPS in this, including members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and State Legislatures —claiming that these awards “don’t matter.” You should hang your heads in shame. How dare you tell students that their hard work doesn’t matter? [Emphasis mine.]

…The school system has lost its way, putting a commitment to academic excellence last on its priorities list and even working against academics and merit or it means hard working students could achieve “unequal outcomes.”

The FCPA is exactly right—this school system has completely lost its way, and is actively harming its own students by favoring ideology over education and success. My guess is there will be many more schools discovered who have engaged in this discriminatory practice. In fact, several schools in Loudon County were also recently accused of withholding notification of the awards.

I go back to Winsome Sears because I think her statements were powerful and summed up the matter perfectly:

We don’t have time for this nonsense. Let me say this, there are so many teachers, all they want to do is teach. They love teaching, they love the profession, but they are being driven out of it by some who have this political agenda to make everybody the same.

Life isn’t like that.



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