STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — What began as an investigation into the awards notification protocols at one Fairfax County high school has snowballed into an issue impacting numerous schools across the Commonwealth. As of Friday afternoon, 17 Northern Virginia high schools reportedly failed to notify parents and students of who won National Merit awards in a timely manner.
Stafford County Public Schools was the latest district to admit that its students have been impacted by the evolving controversy, acknowledging that six students at Mountain View High School "were not notified of their National Merit Scholar Commended Student status in a timely manner."
"We sincerely apologize for the administrative error and the frustration this delay has caused these students and families," SCPS' letter said. "This is very frustrating for us, and not indicative of the pride we feel in our students and the approach we take in celebrating their personal achievements."
The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and college undergraduate scholarships that began in 1955. According to its website, 1.5 million high school students start the program annually.
Being qualified for the award from the organization can help students receive scholarships and boost their college applications since they have been recognized for their academic achievement and demonstrated success in other areas.
“To take away that kind of recognition and that motivation and encouragement from children is a criminal act for me,” Srilekha Palle, parent of a freshman at one of the schools being investigated, said.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who has made education a pillar of his gubernatorial agenda, has been outspoken about his desire to "get to the bottom" of what is happening in Virginia schools, and is now proposing legislation to set standards moving forward.
"I'm taking action," Gov. Youngkin said on a national news program Wednesday. "I'm sending legislation to our general assembly today, to make it mandatory that schools notify parents and students of awards, recognitions and scholarship opportunities as soon as they know."
The legislation would prohibit any school board, public school -- including Governor's Schools -- or employee from withholding recognition, awards, or postsecondary scholarship eligibility earned by a student who was transferred solely to a school system. National Merit Scholarships and other awards would be required to be sent to students and their parents as soon as possible after the school system receives the information.
Below is a list of the schools that have acknowledged failing to notify students of the merit award recognition:
8 of 28 high schools didn't make proper notification
- Thomas Jefferson High School
- Langley High School
- Marshall High School
- Westfield High School
- Edison High School
- Annandale High School
- West Potomac High School
- Lewis High School
4 of 17 high schools didn't make proper notification
- Freedom High School
- Loudoun County High School
- Potomac Falls High School
- 4th school not yet named by LCPS
4 of 13 high schools didn't make proper notification
- Colgan High School
- Battlefield High School
- Forest Park High School
- Patriot High School
1 of 5 high schools didn't make proper notification
- Mountain View High School