|At student rally urging a name change for Stuart High School.|
Over the past year or so, current and past Stuart students and local residents have been urging the school to be renamed because they feel it’s no longer appropriate for a school with a diverse population to be named in honor of a Confederate general.
In an email to the community May 11, school board member Sandy Evans (Mason District) said, “the School Board asked the superintendent to start community engagement on this issue, and that process will take place over the next two months.”
That process will begin with a survey of Stuart students, parents, teachers, alumni, and community members to gauge their interest in changing the school’s name. The survey will be open May 11-20.
A community meeting has been scheduled for Monday, May 23, at 7 p.m., at Stuart High School. Participants will hear background information on the name change issue, take part in small discussions, and suggest possible new names.
If the superintendent determines there is sufficient support to pursue a name change, the Stuart community will be asked to vote on possible names on Saturday, June 11, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Stuart High School.
Voting will be done by computers set up at the school and will be open to those currently living in the Stuart High School boundary. Each household will get one vote, as required by the Fairfax County Public Schools regulation on school naming.
The superintendent’s recommendation to the school board will be due by June 23. Any proposed name change would be posted as “new business” on the board’s June 30 regular meeting agenda. The board would be expected to vote on a name change at the board’s July 14 regular meeting.
The public may also comment on the name change during citizen participation time at school board meetings and may sign up ahead of time to speak on agenda items at the June 30 and July 14 meetings. Evans also invites constituents to submit comments to her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While some advocates for a name change are pushing for Stuart High School to be renamed to honor Justice Thurgood Marshall, the school board’s community engagement effort doesn’t specify an alternative name.
One group of local residents advocating for the name change states, “Segregation and racial supremacy are not American values. In 2016, is it embarrassing for a suburb of Washington, D.C., and home of Justice Thurgood Marshall to have a high school bearing the name of a Confederate general who fought for white supremacy and slavery.”
Naming the school for Marshall would be appropriate, the group asserts, because Marshall, as the head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, was the chief architect of the legal strategy to dismantle segregation.
“As a result of his brilliant advocacy in Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court declared racial segregation in the schools unconstitutional,” the group states. After Marshall was confirmed as a justice on the Supreme Court, he moved to Lake Barcroft, which is in the Stuart attendance area.
Local historians have also noted that the land occupied by Stuart High School had been taken by eminent domain from several African American farmers.
One of the online petitions urging a name change, posted by former students actress Julianne Moore and movie producer Bruce Cohen, has gotten over 34,800 signatures. There are also several petitions urging the retention of the Stuart name, mainly to honor Civil War history and preserve the memories of alumni.
If the school board agrees to support a name change, the new name wouldn’t take effect until the 2017-18 school year.
“Changing the name of a school may incur costs related to signage, uniforms, equipment, and other items,” states an FCPS notice about the name change procedures. “The exact cost will vary based on the scope of change and timing of the normal replacement cycle for some items. Additionally some costs may be offset by private donations.”