Woke principal's mission dubbed 'race to the bottom'

Virginia's Thomas Jefferson School of Science and Technology principal, Ann Bonitatibus, has pushed parents to the tipping point with her latest "diversity mission" at one of the top-rated high schools in the nation.

Her quest for "fairness" led her to make the unprecedented decision to withhold the names of students who had earned National Merit scholar awards because she "did not want to hurt the feelings" of less accomplished students.

The outrageous policy was compounded by one parent learning that the decision had dated back five years from the time the administrator had joined the T.J. faculty.

"Keeping these certificates from the students is theft by the state," says Shawna Yashar, an attorney and proud parent of a T.J. student.  "I learned — two years after the fact — that National Merit had recognized my son, a graduate of T.J.'s Class of 2021," added Yashar.

Ms. Yashar — who is regarded as a formidable parent at school board meetings — learned that 40 students had been recognized as "Commended Students" in 2021 alone.  They, too, had been denied the opportunity to include the merit award for the purpose of obtaining a boost to an Ivy League college or enjoying an advantage to securing a scholarship.

Outraged parents are determined to uncover the list for each year in order to learn whether their children received the honor.  It's not too far afield to estimate that 1,200 T.J. students earned the honor based on previous records for the past five years, writes Asra Nomani, an investigative journalist.

Things have never been more vitriolic between parents and T.J. faculty.

There was a time when Principal Bonitatibus, and her colleagues, could count on intimidating angry parents into silence over the school's "diversity mission" with charges of "racism."  But now parents are pushing back and labeling Ms. Bonitatibus, and her faculty supporters, as the "new face of racism."  And they accuse the T.J. faculty of "waging a war on merit" by dismantling academic standards as an integral part of the admissions process.

"This episode has emerged amid the school district's new strategy of 'equal outcomes for every student without exception," writes Ms. Nomani, who has led the fight to unearth the names of merit scholar winners.

More than one lawsuit has been filed by angry parents to stop Bonitatibus from degrading the academic integrity of a school once rated as the top high school in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report.

That is no longer the case.  Living in her woke world, Bonitatibus introduces an array of new policies that includes making it impossible for a failing student to receive a failing grade. The "equitable grading" system makes for a warmer and fuzzier overall evaluation, including "eliminating zeroes from grade scores, issuing 50 percent grade guarantees for students showing up for class, and the cryptic code of 'NTI' for assignments not turned in," Ms. Nomani writes.

Such policies reinvent standards at T.J. and have been characterized by Nomani as a "race to the bottom."

It is unthinkable for Principal Bonitatibus to continue to withhold the names of merit scholars, but she has stayed her disastrous course for months.  In her campaign for "fairness," Bonitatibus failed to mentioned how her deceptive policy of withholding merit winners disproportionally hurts Asian students, who make up the majority of the school's student body.

"She still hasn't publicly recognized the students or told parents from earlier years that their students won the awards.  And she hasn't yet delivered the missing certificates," writes Ms. Nomani.

The principal is not alone in her policy fight.  Brandon Kosatka, director of T.J.'s student services, attempted to justify the misguided awards policy, explaining, "We want to recognize students for who they are as individuals, not focus on their achievements."

He may have an opportunity to expound on his viewpoint should the angry parents proceed with another lawsuit against the T.J. district.  They had previously filed a "discriminatory action" suit against the district for unfairly discriminating against Asian and Caucasian students, especially in the admissions process.

Bonitatibus is now in the hot seat with a couple of the state's most powerful politicians.  Gov. Glenn Youngkin has requested that the state's attorney general, Jason Miyares, investigate the actions of the T.J. faculty in "deliberately" withholding the names of merit winners.  Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears also lodged her outrage against the T.J. faculty, saying, "Our children's education is not a zero-sum game," referring to the policy that eliminates failing marks.  "We cannot punish success in order to have 'equal outcomes at all costs.'"

While the T.J. principal continues to mull over the release of names, she may be relieved of the necessity to make a decision, given the growing number of parents demanding her dismissal.

Image: VCU Capital News Service.

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