Former Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) superintendent Ann Bonitatibus (2015 to 2017), who immediately preceded superintendent Mark McLaughlin, is under state investigation for alleged anti-Asian bigotry, according to Virginia attorney general Jason Miyares.
Bonitatibus was made principal of the prestigious Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, Virginia, in 2017 and immediately began eliminating the school’s high academic standards and admitting students based on race. As a result, Thomas Jefferson saw “close to a 20-point drop in Asian American enrollment,” says the state’s attorney general.
“It seems as though the only state-sanctioned form of bigotry in America is anti-Asian bigotry, and we want to make sure that’s not happening in Virginia,” Miyares said, as reported by the Daily Mail.
The former CVUSD head, who left the Conejo Valley due to a change in her “life circumstances,” according to the Panther Prowler student newspaper, is also one of more than a dozen principals under scrutiny for withholding National Merit Scholarship commendations from students who earned them so that her school would appear to have “equitable” racial outcomes.
The schools apparently withheld recognition from deserving students because too many were Asian Americans. As Governor Glenn Youngkin put it, “[Fairfax County Schools] have a maniacal focus on equal outcomes for all students at all costs.”
That seems to have led Bonitatibus and at least 12 other Virginia high school principals to withhold National Merit Scholarship student commendations. The National Merit Scholarship Program, established in 1955, is an academic competition for recognition and college undergraduate scholarships. It is privately financed, not-for-profit and operates without government assistance, awarding scholarships on the basis of students’ abilities, skills and accomplishments — without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin or religious preference.
Around 34,000 students each year are named Commended Students. In mid-September, the National Merit organization sends each principal a list of his school’s Commended Students with letters of commendation for presentation to the students.
According to the Daily Mail, Virginia’s investigation is looking into the decision of Bonitatibus and others to withhold the National Merit Scholarship honors as a possible violation of the Virginia Human Rights Act.
Former CVUSD superintendent Ann Bonitatibus ‘came with a mission to turn the top-rated school upside down. For her, that meant flipping the school’s racial demographics.’
Infuriated parents have called for Bonitatibus to be fired for destroying the quality of education at the school U.S. News and World Report calls the top public high school in the country. Thomas Jefferson was established in 1985 as a magnet school for students gifted in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
But now, open discrimination against Asian Americans is the name of the game, with Bonitatibus leading the charge.
According to attorney general Miyares, the Fairfax school district paid an equity consultant $450,000 to ensure “equal outcomes no matter what, even if it means treating some students purposefully unequally,” he told Fox News. “You hear the word ‘equity’ all the time. Equity without excellence is actually emptiness. It doesn’t really help the student at all. It actually divides us.”
In April, Asra Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and parent of a Thomas Jefferson student, wrote in The Federalist, “In 2017, when Ann Bonitatibus walked through the front doors of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology as its new principal, she came with a mission to turn the top-rated school upside down. For her, that meant flipping the school’s racial demographics. At the time, 7 of 10 students came from Asian immigrant families, two of 10 from white families, and one of 10 students came from black, Hispanic, and multiracial families.”
On June 7, 2020, after George Floyd’s killing, Bonitatibus “emailed our mostly minority, immigrant families, telling us to check our ‘privileges,’ expressing her shame at our ‘Colonials’ mascot, and outlining her vision for a new racial makeup at the school,” the parent continued.
As a result, “freshmen are leaving the school in record numbers and teachers are abandoning ship,” Nomani wrote. The district picked the Class of 2025 through a race-based admissions process, which caused the percentage of Asian students admitted last year to plummet from 73 to 54 percent.
“Teachers also say the principal [Bonitatibus] has sent a clear message: don’t fail freshmen” though many are ill-prepared in math, Nomani wrote.
In a co-authored opinion piece for the Washington Post about the former CVUSD superintendent, Nomani wrote, “The purge of Asian American students at Thomas Jefferson High School has begun.”
“Over the past year, TJ [Thomas Jefferson] and Fairfax County Public Schools officials have systematically set out to reduce the number of Asian American students at the highly regarded high school — and based on the most recent admissions data, their purge is succeeding.”
Nomani singled out Bonitatibus for bemoaning a lack of “diversity” and launching a crusade to change admissions.
“The student body is about 80 percent minority, but the wrong kind of minority for school officials, with about 70 percent Asian and about 10 percent of the minority students Black, Hispanic and multiracial,” Nomani wrote.
District leaders relaxed the school’s competitive admission standards, quit using the merit-based, race-blind admissions exam and introduced subjective criteria such as “experience factors” that allowed them to achieve a more “equitable” racial balance.
“It was clear that the new standards were aimed at a particular result: dramatically reducing the number of qualified Asian American students admitted to TJ,” the Post article continued. “In response, a multicultural coalition of concerned parents and families came together to combat the new racist standards. These brave parents held protests in front of the school, carrying signs written in Hindi, Bengali and Chinese. We warned that the slippery new standards were not only designed to actively discriminate against Asian American students, but would also end up watering down the school’s long-standing commitment to achievement through hard work and merit.”
Nomani and a grass-roots organization of parents filed a federal lawsuit against the Fairfax County School Board, arguing that the new admission standards violate their children’s constitutional right to equal protection. They warn that the rest of the country is next.
“The use of race in K-12 school admissions is part of a much wider national campaign by education officials intoxicated by the fashionable ideology of critical race theory taking it upon themselves to undermine the meritocratic system of achievement,” the Post opinion piece concluded. “Under the cover of fighting against discrimination and injustice, they’re launching a new era of discrimination and injustice. It’s up to parents to draw a line in the sand against this abuse of power.”
Bonitatibus did not respond to The Conejo Guardian’s request for comment.