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Thursday, December 10, 2015

School board is considering a new policy on changing school names

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The Fairfax County School Board will vote on a resolution Dec. 17 to change its policy on school names. It doesn’t refer to efforts to rename JEB Stuart High School – or any other school building – but it does clear the way for those who want to pursue that change.

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.”

13 comments:

  1. It's well past time to stop honoring two shameful periods in our history: the Civil War and the 1950s/60s "massive resistance" by Virginia leaders to school desegregation. The school has a remarkable and diverse student body--let its name honor one who fought for, not against, inclusion.

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  2. Keep it simple and use numbers instead of names.

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  3. I support renaming Stuart High School. I'm also in favor of honoring the legacy of Thurgood Marshall. However, renaming Stuart after Justice Marshall will give the County two Marshall high schools. That will be unnecessarily confusing.

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  4. We live in a PC world. Everyone is always offended.

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    1. The issue isn't one of offense, it's a question of who we collectively choose to honor, and why. Were the actions of JEB Stuart worthy of being honored? Remember, he was only given the honor because of people's fears of integration during the civil rights era.

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    2. How is that not an issue of offense?

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    3. "Were the actions of JEB Stuart worthy of being honored?" If you ask the members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the answer might be yes. Those statues of Confederate "heroes" in Richmond also speak for themselves. In this situation, the better argument would be that Stuart's name was appropriated less to honor him than to demonstrate support for the Commonwealth's policy of massive resistance to desegregation that was in force when the high school was opened. Since we already have one Marshall high school. I'd prefer to have Stuart High School renamed for former Governor Douglas Wilder. As the Commonwealth's first and only African-American governor, he deserves the recognition.

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    4. "Everyone is always offended"... including those who love to drop the "PC" card, in the same fashion as those very same people cry out against others dropping "the race card."

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    5. I'm offended you're offended

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    6. Renaming the school would be an excellent way to make clear that Stuart was a traitor and that the School Board's original decision to name the school after him as a way to register their displeasure with being required to integrate the schools was a mistake. People who jump to label this initiative "PC" need to take a hard look at themselves and ask why they are the ones taking offense now.

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  5. B.S. All of it.

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    1. Did you get lost on your way to the Donald Trump rally? It's more than past time to rename JEB Stuart HS.

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  6. I think JEB Stuart HS should be renamed to Peace Valley High School.

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