Virginia governor proposes bill to make merit awards notifications mandatory

Virginia schools continue to make headlines after 16 schools across three counties have reportedly withheld notifying students who received National Merit Awards. Following Attorney General Jason Miyares’ move to launch a probe into the schools, Gov. Glenn Youngkin has taken another step to combat the “relentless pursuit of equity.”

Gov. Youngkin has proposed a bill that would “make it mandatory that schools notify parents and students of awards, recognitions and scholarship opportunities as soon as they know this is not going to happen again.”

“There clearly is a real suggestion that their civil rights have been violated. And we need to understand what’s at the heart of this,” Youngkin said on “American Reports” Wednesday.

16 schools have reportedly delayed notifying students who received National Merit Awards, despite claims it was originally a clerical error at one of the schools in Fairfax County. The controversy has expanded to Loudon County and Prince Williams County.

Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrio) and Delegate Nick Feitas (R-Culpeper) are working on the legislation and say the goal is to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“I find it inconceivable as a parent with four kids that teachers and the schools would not recognize the significance of that accommodation, and it would not be a high priority to notify when they know they’re the only ones getting that notification,” Dunnavant told FOX 5. “So for me, with the number of schools involved, it now seems suspicious.”

National merit awards are among the most prestigious honors a high school student can receive, with just 50,000 students from the top 1.5 million PSAT scores receiving them.

“There’s clearly has been an effort to bring down the standards for our students in Virginia to stop celebrating excellence. And this is counter to everything we believe,” Youngkin said. “This nation was built on the idea of building a better future, of striving and achieving. And here we have what appears to be three of three large school districts in Virginia who have been systematically withholding information about excellence. This is so counter to everything that we believe.”

Gov. Youngkin, who has been an outspoken champion of parental rights in education and keeping woke policies out of schools, blasted the “trifecta” of problems plaguing the education system in his state.

“We have schools that lowered expectations. Virginia used to have the highest standards for treatment. And now we have had the lowest. We’re putting them back. But sadly, Virginia students met those expectations,” he said. “Second of all, they pushed parents out of their students’ lives. And third, there has been a consistent cover-up in the relentless pursuit of equity.”

“It makes it clear that the governor and legislature have zero tolerance for making schools about the infrastructure and instead everything about schools should be about our kids’ individualized education and helping every one of them succeed to their highest potential, celebrating that success, and really staying focused on that,” Dunnavant said.

If this legislation passes and schools still don’t follow the rules, Senator Dunnavant told FOX 5 there aren’t a lot of consequences in the code of schools in general and while there would be no criminal charges, it would give students and parents the ability to open up a civil case.

Elicia Brand, a Loudoun County Mother, said whether the withholding or delay of notification of these awards was by design or by accident, it is still theft by future for these children and believes schools should be held criminally liable.

“So many of these students who won these awards need the scholarships to be able to attend the schools of their choice,” Brand said. “It’s basically robbing them of their future if we don’t instill a process that must be followed under law.”

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares said he is expanding his probe, and is looking to see if school systems violated the Virginia Human Rights Act. Miyares told Fox News that Fairfax County paid a so-called equity consultant $450,000 for less than nine months of work.

Gov. Youngkin criticized the “absolutely atrocious” effort from Virginia school districts to “bring down the standards” of excellence for students in the name of equity, calling for more transparency within schools over expenditures like Fairfax’s equity consultant.

“There should be full transparency in these kinds of expenditures, particularly when they’re teaching and training a methodology and a belief system that is so counter to excellence, so counter to making sure that students are allowed to achieve and do their best,” he said. “Again, it is such an anathema to everything we believe.”

“Excellence in education should be celebrated, not withheld from students.”

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