Principal Evan Glazer’s Response

The following letter is a response to the recent story surrounding a graduate from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, referred to as “Sara” in different media reports. The story identifies a false account of admissions to Harvard College and Stanford University.

The actions of “Sara” are very unfortunate and are not representative of the student body at Thomas Jefferson (also known as TJ), and they are also not representative of the Korean heritage community. We should not stereotype a group of people based on the actions of an individual. As a school community, we take pride in our honor code, “I will uphold academic and personal integrity in the TJ community,” and discuss with students the importance of addressing ethical conflicts using student advocacy guidelines. Advocacy is very difficult, and takes time, for teenagers because they do not want to disappoint their teachers and parents. Teens also struggle with the realization they have limitations when comparing themselves to their peers. However, stress levels and expectations can become much more manageable when adults and children openly communicate about challenges that impact their mental health. This means acknowledging a grade of a “B” is OK if it’s not a strong suit — studying an extra 10 hours a week is not worth it to earn the A.

College admissions are not the focus of TJ’s education. Instead, our priority is to provide a challenging environment in STEM, promote joy at the prospect of discovery, and foster a culture of innovation amidst a comprehensive school community filled with activities, athletics, and rich diversity. We recognize the college admissions process is important to students and their families. Through a counseling process, we encourage students to apply to a wide variety of schools and choose one based on best fit rather than by reputation. Many of our graduates attend prestigious universities around the country, although getting into all Ivy League colleges is not the standard nor is encouraged; about 40% of our graduates attend an excellent state college in Virginia and perform exceptionally well there.

Shaming a child in the media for a mistake she has made, even after a father has made a sincere apology, is a sad display of our humanity. I hope children can be forgiven particularly after they demonstrate they have accepted consequences and learned a lesson. For the betterment of society, we owe our youth proper care and guidance so they grow into responsible adults by teaching them how to manage stress and cope with disappointment and mistakes. I try to reinforce this message by promoting advocacy and accepting responsibility through restorative justice. Success in these arenas requires a continual commitment from everyone, and as a school community, we will strive to be more effective in our efforts. Sara’s father is a remarkable man who has owned responsibility for helping his child, and I believe we should praise him for taking action.

This letter has been written by Evan Glazer, principal, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. His email is [email protected].