The current policy allows the school board to change the name of a building when the building’s purpose is changed, such as when a school is repurposed as an administrative building. The proposed policy would permit the school board to “also consider a change in the name of a school or facility where some other compelling need exists.”
A group of Stuart students, “Students for Change,” have been campaigning to dump the name, JEB Stuart, which honors a Confederate general who fought for slavery, and rename the school for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who fought for school integration. Marshall lived in Lake Barcroft, which is in the Stuart attendance area, and his widow still lives there.
Those advocating for the name change also includes Stuart alumni, community members, the Fairfax County NAACP, the Tinner Hill Foundation, and a Hollywood actress and producer who had attended Stuart. They argue that the school was named for Stuart by those opposed to integration during the period in the 1950s when Virginia officials were engaged in the massive resistance movement.
On Nov. 16, the school board approved a recommendation to consider the name change policy, and on Dec. 3, agreed to bring up the policy change as an action item at the Dec. 17 meeting.
Fairfax County NAACP President Shirley Ginwright, who spoke at the November meeting, says, “as an African-American, it’s an insult that in 2015 we have to see our children in a school named for a Confederate general and a man who fought for slavery.”
The land where Stuart High School was built had been taken from an African American family under eminent domain at a time when blacks couldn’t attend the school, Ginwright says, who notes that many minorities and children of color attend Stuart. “They shouldn’t have to look at statues and flags that perpetuate hatred. It’s time to change.”