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OPINION

Not Accidental, FCPS Withholding of TJ Student Awards Was Intentional

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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When merit governs, everyone wins.  When equity governs, everyone loses.  Equity, or equality of outcome, always brings down what is above.  The effect is a leveling at the mediocre level, disincentivizing precisely those extraordinary achievers upon whom communities, states, and the nation depend for excellence in every field of endeavor.  Equity (or more accurately termed, communism) is a dead end that leaves the great bulk of humanity in poverty, in servitude to the state, and in hopelessness.  The Fairfax County School Board and administrators running the Fairfax County Public Schools and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, are rabidly intent on destroying one of the nation’s greatest engines of academic achievement in the name of diversity, equity, and inclusion.  

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Their aim is to replace merit as an objective, unbiased measure with selection and privilege granted based on a racially biased measure (i.e., racial discrimination).  The consequence for the last several years has been to discriminate against, and deprive, certain students, particularly Asians with outstanding test scores, of opportunities to attend and be recognized at the school for their excellence.  Judge Claude M. Hilton of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia issued a stay against TJ’s change in admission policies, reciting its discriminatory effects, particularly against Asians. Judge Hilton’s decision was itself stayed pending a decision on appeal by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Consequently, the discriminatory admissions policy remains in place.  The Fairfax County School Board and the Fairfax County Public Schools now proceed unabated in their relentless effort to elevate race over merit in admissions and academic policy throughout the Fairfax County school system and, particularly, at TJ.

Their actions have denied many of America’s best and brightest, particularly those in the Asian community, the opportunity to advance and achieve for the benefit of the entire nation.  Those so discriminated against are sorely deserving of redress.  The solution to this problem is quite obviously a return to color blind, race blind, and gender-blind meritocracy where the only measure determinative of admission and advancement in fields dependent on academic prowess is the objective one of academic achievement.  Yet the Fairfax County School Board, FCPS, and the administrators at TJ refuse to abide by the letter and spirit of Judge Hilton’s well written decision, faulting them for their overt acts of discrimination.  For at least the past five years, they have intentionally refused to honor National Merit Commended Scholars (those whose national merit test scores are among the highest), depriving them of the award ceremonies and publicity given them in prior years and, most importantly, of timely opportunities to obtain scholarships heavily influenced by their Merit Commended scholar status.  What the Fairfax County School Board, FCPS and TJ administrators reveal by their destruction of merit is an utter contempt for the very essence of education, academic achievement, and a radical obsession with a radical political agenda, to advance students based on skin pigment or national origin, having nothing at all to do with academic ability.   

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In their latest act of discriminatory maladministration harmful to exceptional students, TJ High School Principal Ann Bonitatibus (whose infamous demands for equity led her to receive inculpatory ink in Judge Hilton’s February 2022 decision) and TJ High School Director of Student Services Brandon Kosatka withheld National Merit Commended Student awards from TJ students and their parents, most of whom are of Asian descent.  The awards were unceremoniously placed on student desks on November 14, 2022, two weeks after students’ early applications were due for college admissions.  No award ceremonies or press releases citing the scholars’ achievements issued from Bonitatibus’s TJ.  She ended that practice years ago in deference to the FCPS system-wide commitment to race based advancement in place of academic achievement based advancement.  The effect was to cause the school’s highest academic achievers direct and palpable injury because they could not timely submit their awards (given only to school administration for distribution to students) with college applications.  That failure to supply the awards timely to colleges and universities can result in a denial of collegescholarships and admissions.  

An intense public spotlight upon her for her discrimination against high academic performers at TJ, Bonitatibus now argues that the whole thing was a forgivable “mistake” and that she has taken remedial action, contacting universities and advising of the awards given National Merit Commended Students from TJ.  Her mea culpa rings hollow, however.  Her discriminatory actions in the name of diversity, equity, and inclusion were no mistake.  The evidence plainly reveals that TJ under her direction has for at least the last five years taken away recognition for the National Merit Commended students.  The late delivery of their scholarship awards, unceremoniously deposited on student desks, is intentional, entirely consistent with the school’s overall effort to remove honors for students who achieve academically, an act of discrimination falling particularly hard on those of Asian descent.

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As Judge Hilton found with the change to TJ admissions policies, so too now we see with its overall treatment of high academic achievers, TJ continues to disproportionately disadvantage high academic achievers of Asian descent in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and in violation of the Virginia Human Rights Act.  

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has asked Attorney General Jason Miyares to investigate those responsible for the actions taken at TJ.  The result will be a detailed report, further revealing the extent to which administrators at TJ violated the Virginia Human Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Thereafter, litigation should and likely will follow.  The evidence revealed to date, on its face, supports the conclusion that there has been a deliberate effort to downgrade and withhold distinction and benefits appropriately due students at TJ who achieved National Merit Scholar status, disproportionately discriminating against Asians (the very same people wrongly denied admission to the school under its recently held unconstitutional admissions process).  

Those who drive the divisive and discriminatory equity agenda in the Fairfax County Public Schools, like those who do so nationwide, need to be removed from the public school system.  They are anti-education.  Meritocracy is the only fair academic measure upon which we may depend to ensure that the brightest minds fill scientific and technical fields of endeavor that demand such acumen.  We can only succeed in global competition and can only advance as a nation if we enable the brightest, regardless of race, creed, color, and religion, to achieve their academic best.  Discrimination was thoroughly repudiated and traduced in the Civil Rights era but has been given new life by radical leftists under the rubric of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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