National Merit Suit — Brief Update

A controversy arose last December when it was reported that officials at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) had failed to notify students and parents in a timely manner of achievement awards from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.  According to the news reporting, TJ administrators explained that the awards had been withheld from the winners s0 that the feelings of non-winners wouldn’t be hurt.

In response, the Superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), Michelle Reid, stated that her initial investigation indicated there hadn’t been any wrongdoing but that, to assure objectivity, an outside firm would be hired to investigate the matter independently.  She promised the firm’s findings would be disclosed to the public.  But when the firm completed its work in March, FCPS only released its internal summary of the report’s “key findings” and refused to disclose the report itself.  This led to a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the report and its underlying factual materials.  That request was denied by FCPS on the ground that the report was “privileged.”  That, in turn, led to a lawsuit claiming the report wasn’t exempt from disclosure under FOIA.

Getting the case scheduled for a court hearing has been complicated by the fact that the Virginia Attorney General initiated its own investigation into the TJ-National Merit matter, which led to questions about coordinating the two proceedings.  But the complications have now been resolved.  The FOIA suit has been scheduled for a hearing on Wednesday, October 4, at 9:30 a.m. in the Fairfax County General District Court in Fairfax.  One or more FCPS officials are expected to testify in support of the argument that the independent report about the TJ-National Merit controversy should be withheld from the public.

As in every litigation, the outcome is uncertain, but Fairfax Schools Monitor will keep on top of developments and will report them as they occur.

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  1. Mike on August 26, 2023 at 12:04 pm

    Thanks for the update.
    I appreciate all you do.

    • Mark Spooner on August 26, 2023 at 12:14 pm

      Mike: Thanks for your support.

  2. Chris on August 26, 2023 at 4:47 pm

    Appreciate the update, thank you. Very interested in the outcome in District Court.

  3. Jason on August 26, 2023 at 9:49 pm

    This is part of the larger, national trend of censorship and suppression we are seeing from people and institutions that used to be classically liberal. Reid considers herself above majority (she even said as much in a recorded board meeting this summer). Her and all the rest of the board need to be driven from positions of power . . . her station in life should be something like slinging coffee and writing a weekly victim’s blog in some far corner of the internet. That’s about all she’s qualified for, in my book.

  4. Dave Rich on August 28, 2023 at 11:01 am

    Thanks for all the work you’re doing to keep parents informed and hold FCPS bureaucrats accountable!

  5. Justin on August 30, 2023 at 5:52 pm

    Your work is truly appreciated 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

    • Mark Spooner on August 30, 2023 at 8:53 pm

      Justin: Thanks for your support!