Top School Withheld Info About Students Winning National Merit Awards, Reason Defies Belief

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (Credit: Fox5)

We’ve seen a lot of crazy things being done in the name of “equity” or being “woke.”

But what was done to more than 1,200 students at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in northern Virginia almost defies belief and is likely to earn the school some legal action.


Two administrators at the school, the principal Ann Bonitatibus, and the director of student services, Brandon Kosatka, allegedly have been withholding telling the families and the public if students won National Merit awards for the past five years. According to the NY Post, most of the students involved were Asian.

This episode has emerged amid the school district’s new strategy of “equal outcomes for every student, without exception.” School administrators, for instance, have implemented an “equitable grading” policy that eliminates zeros, gives students a grade of 50 percent just for showing up, and assigns a cryptic code of “NTI” for assignments not turned in.

But the problem was discovered by one mother, Shawna Yashar, who is a lawyer and whose son was a commended student. She confronted Kosatka, who allegedly told her that they withheld the information on purpose because they didn’t want to make the other students feel bad and “hurt” the feelings of the students who didn’t win. “We want to recognize students for who they are as individuals, not focus on their achievements,” he said. Yikes.


That infuriated parents. Srilekha Palle said, “It just makes me feel bad. It boils my blood, I hate to say that.” “The role of these educators is to have children achieve their full potential, not limit their full potential. That’s what they’ve done,” said Harry Jackson, a Thomas Jefferson parent. “They’ve betrayed the trust of our community. They cannot be trusted. I cannot trust them with my child.”

Conservative journalist Asra Nomani found out that her son had been named a commended student in 2020, but he was not told by the school.

National Merit recognition can help you get access to scholarships including 800 Special Scholarships from corporate sponsors, in addition to increasing your chances to get into competitive schools. By denying them, the school officials were hurting the kids’ opportunity to get into colleges or get those scholarships.

What’s more, it could be a civil rights violation, says local parent advocate Debra Tisler, with most TJ students in a protected class of “gifted” students, most of them racial minorities, many with disabilities, and most coming from immigrant families whose parents speak English as a second language. “It’s just cruel,” says Tisler.

After they were caught, Kosatka apologized and said school officials would contact college admissions offices to correct the record. Bonitatibus still hasn’t recognized the students.


Fairfax County Public Schools released a statement.

“FCPS understands the hard work and dedication of each and every student who competes for college acceptance and scholarship opportunities,” the statement reads. “Once the issue regarding the fall 2022 notifications was realized, counselors sent emails and made follow-up calls to each college where these students had applied and informed them of the National Merit Scholarship Commendations. We are continuing to look into this matter and will take any necessary steps to ensure consistency in appropriate and timely notification of National Merit recognitions going forward.”

But they can’t get back the scholarships and the advantages that they were denied based on what they had achieved. They claim this was based on not wanting to hurt the other kids. Nomani called it a “war on merit” and it ended up severely hurting these kids who deserved the awards that they had rightfully earned.


Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on RedState Videos