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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Community engagement process under way on renaming Stuart HS

At student rally urging a name change for Stuart High School.
The Fairfax County School Board has begun the process to consider whether the community wants to change the name of JEB 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 ssevans@fcps.edu.

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.”

47 comments:

  1. What a colossal waste of resources and energy. Learn the history, understand the context, find humor in the anachronistic nature of the name and focus on improving the school.

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    1. Completely agree.

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    2. The "colossal waste" here is that for 50+ years, black students have had to accept and endure the costs of being subjected to the last gasp sabotage of a segregationist school board.

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    3. Just playing devil's advocate here, but what costs have black students been subjected to with regards to the name of the school?

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    4. I don't pretend to speak for them, but those I've spoken to, former and current, who know the history of the man, and also the history of Massive Resistance, are hurt, angry, and determined to finally fix it. You can't put a price on the effects of oppression.

      Even if it cost $1 million to cover all the costs, which is a ridiculous figure being thrown around by some members of the PTA, that works out to $2 a person for a county of 500,000 taxpayers.

      The fact is, a majority of the costs being factored into these calculations are sports and band uniforms, which get replaced every few years anyway. And they're paid for by boosters.

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    5. EXCUSE me, are you all really the haters that you appear to be? Who are you to judge what is a waste of resources and time? Who are you to find symbols of slavery "humorous"? Do you find a swastika funny?

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    6. not hating anyone bro, just asked a simple question. don't know what that had to do with my love of the swastika :)

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    7. $1 million seems low if you ask me. Think about all the signs that need to be replaced and the cost of all those signs. The cost of all the uniforms, spirit wear, library books that already have been catalogued with the Stuart sticker. It is not just a matter of changing the name it is all the little things. I do not think this is a good idea and especially when are county can not even fully funding our parks and libraries but we are going to pay to change a name of a school. This is wasteful spending!

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  2. I completely agree with anonymous 4:02 PM.

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  3. I agree about finding the humor, but also pissed off that the name was an f-u to the civil rights movement in 1959. Keep Stuart, get rid of any reference to JEB. And keep Raiders - it's generic.

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    1. It's because the name was changed as an FU to desegregation that I support the change.

      I'm personally rooting for boaty mcboatface as the new name.

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    2. I had to google that Jeff, and it made my day.

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  4. How would you feel if you were black and going to a school named for a man who is best known for fighting to preserve slavery. He may have been fighting in the defense of his country, but he is still perceived as one who fought to protect the institution of slavery. I don't want young black men and women feeling the way that would make me feel.

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  5. If they want to name it after a Supreme Court judge then it should be recently departed Antonin Scalia. Most of the students at JEB are children of immigrants as was the late Justice.

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    1. George Mason is already naming its law school after him, last I heard.

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  6. Yet, at the same time it's ok to keep the name of the Washington football team after what happen to the Native Americans by President Jackson. We need to keep these names to remind us of our history and to remind us we need to not let this happen again. I agree keep drop JEB and keep Stuart as a compromise.

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  7. The county has already raised personal property tax and is contemplating a meals tax to pay for FCPS. Why spend more money on this nonsense. Just how much will it cost taxpayers so we can make the 20 kids in the picture "feel better"?

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    1. We can give each one of them a tree, provided they come and dig it up.

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    2. There is a mighty movement of alum that support this change and have every intention of helping defray the costs.

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    3. I look at the picture with this post, my eyes aren't the best but I see one girl of "color". Dressed as in
      Muslim garb. How many "Americians" of color go there any more. The bliss of "Happy Days" didn't turn everyone into a raciest. The questionable history of this country shouldn't be lost on "PC".

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  8. There is already a Marshall High School in the area.
    Why not name the school after Whittier the abolitionist poet. There used to be a Whittier Intermediate on Hollywood Ave but it was torn down back in the early '90s.

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  9. What is wrong with the way history is being taught to these kids? Seems like they've been taught mixed messages and taken history out of context. We are supposed to learn from history, not erase it.

    BTW, I can't find any black students in the photo. What is this really all about?

    Do these kids realize how expensive this name change can be?

    Do some critical thinking and prioritizing and focus on what is important in life. How on earth is a student's self image wrapped up in the name of a school. The name of the school doesn't define the student body or any individual student. Teach these kids self-awareness and self-esteem based on who their are as individuals. Something is missing here.

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    1. Thank you!

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    2. "We are supposed to learn from history, not erase it." JEB Stuart is hardly a seminal figure in these parts. He's at best a footnote in American history. Other than for dyed in wool civil war buffs, I cannot imagine why anyone - especially high schoolers - would relate to him. So, it's time to dispense with this apparition and rename the high school for someone with a meaningful historical legacy.

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    3. Beyonce!

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    4. Critical thinking is exactly why this movement has begun. Bigoted parties will loose. Wake up folks, flags, statutes, names are being changed all over campuses, and other places that public monies fund all over this country. Do you approve of Hitler High so we can learn about history and not erase it?

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    5. Hitler High? right across from Stalin Elementary right? decent schools but they're really strict on who attends

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  10. "because they feel it’s no longer appropriate for a school with a diverse population to be named in honor of a Confederate general."

    So if the student population wasn't as diverse it would be OK? Is this about diversity or the Confederacy?

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  11. Of course it's about diversity. Do you seriously believe anyone would have proposed naming this school after JEB Stuart if, at the time, it had anything other than a lily white student body?

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  12. You were never a slave so what offends you? It's all about the HISTORY of this country

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    1. Actually, JEB, it's about the history of a treasonous nation that ceased to exist in 1865, not this country. It's time to stop clinging to that sad moment in history. Newsflash: Your side lost.

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  13. I support renaming the school. The original plan in the 1950s was to call it "Munson Hill HS," but then the pro-segregationist forces in the county decided naming schools after Southern generals (Stuart, Lee) would be a good way to send the Federal Government and Supreme Court a giant middle finger. It was an ugly decision, and students can learn about that history today without being forced to attend a school that honors a man who fought to preserve the institution of slavery. It's unfortunate that it will cost money, but we are paying off a debt first incurred in 1958.

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  14. Anonymous at 9:56AM please cite your sources. I have done some research myself and the only place I find what you extort is from school board talking points.

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    1. School board historical records are readily available on the county's website. It takes some time to go through them, but you can find specific content dealing with the rules change to switch from geographic to "prominent Americans, deceased" in 1958, April/May time frame. If you go back to 1956, you will see that the school (which does not sit on Munson Hill) was called "Munson Hill High School" up until the rules were changed and J.E.B. Stuart was chosen.

      (Lee High School, which was nearly completed at the time of the rule change, had been named Franconia High School in all minutes for 2 years as well.)

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    2. Link please.

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    3. I would encourage anyone with a legitimate interest in understanding Stuart's naming to search School Board minutes from the 1950s, available at this link: https://insys.fcps.edu/schoolboardapps/searchmenu.cfm
      It is quite clear from the minutes that the FCPS School Board opposed school integration, sucked up to local citizens groups and the state government in Richmond to express its opposition, and changed a longstanding policy of naming schools after their geographic location so they could honor Confederates like JEB Stuart. It's a scar on the county, and neither white nor minority students should have to attend a school that honors nothing so much as the notion that the enslavement of other human beings was a just cause that deserved to be perpetuated and was worth fighting and dying for. JEB Stuart's ties to Northern Virginia (an area that housed both Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War) were limited and consisted largely of his being stationed in the area for one month, during which he and his fellow Confederates were snipers trying to kill Union soldiers stationed along Route 7. Honoring this man - a traitor to his country, a killer, and a dandy - is an outrage that we no longer need to endure.

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  15. I find these comments both amusing and distressing. The school board in the 1950s made a decision to change their own rules, so they could name the two schools under construction after "prominent Americans, deceased". They did this right in the middle of some highly-publicized court cases, both local and national, were being fought and it was becoming apparent that integration was going to happen. For two solid years, the school was going to have the name "Munson Hill High School".

    Naming it after a man who violated his oath to defend the United States of America and its Constitution, who fired upon and killed US soldiers, and who did so to defend the abhorrent practice of slavery, was insulting then, and it's especially insulting now. The school board made a bad decision then, as both a political statement of defiance to the federal government, but also as a message to incoming black students that they weren't welcome and were going to be reminded of their second-class status.

    There would be NO cost whatsoever, if the school board had not taken this action in 1958. Correcting this mistake can't happen fast enough.

    And guess what? The reason this is now coming to a head, is because folks have a lot more access to history and are learning about both the Civil War, who JEB Stuart was, learning about desegregation and Virginia's formal policy of "Massive Resistance" and how that informed the School Board's actions back then.

    The problem isn't that history is being erased - it's being discovered, uncovered, and exposed. The more we know, the more it becomes impossible to accept that a taxpayer-funded school bears the name of a traitor, terrorist, and thief (what do you think "Raider" means?).

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  16. I find these comments towards not changing the name of this school exactly the reason it needs to be. These same expressed attitudes is what created the inequity of believing that one is superior to another. To think that erasing history is humanly possible is a defense based in fear. Do you all know of a Hitler high school in Europe anywhere? Why do you think that is? The pathetic excuse and mindset is reason enough to change the name of a place that I spent four great years.

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  17. We do not need to keep Confederate symbols in positions of honor to remember history. We do not need to make high schoolers cheer for Confederate soldiers to express school pride either. Students are urging for the addition of plaques along with a name change to better educate people about not only the Civil War, but the fact that racist values persisted so strongly for nearly 100 years after, to when the school was named. The majority of the cost goes toward sports equipment replacements that would be due to occur within the next two to four years anyway. The remaining chunk is well worth it to give thousands of future students, for potentially hundreds of years, a name of which they can be proud that does not tolerate or perpetuate racism.

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  18. Symbolism over substance strikes our once fine county yet again. If you have to conduct challenging research in order to figure out why you are offended, are you really offended? What is going on here is little more than partisan, politically correct drivel brought forth by a board that does little else aside from addressing this type of nonsensical made up issue.

    It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that this end of Fairfax County has been long neglected. Why are most of our schools over-crowded and populated with poverty stricken students; many who need expensive language and/or special education services? How does spending funds on a name change (money that according to this very board we don’t have) do anything to alleviate these real problems that present a daily challenge our teachers, parents and administrators?

    Specifically, JEB Stuart faces some very serious issues. Changing the name of this school will not do anything to address the real problems this school has with gangs, dropouts and low test scores. The last information available states that students failed their SOL’s at alarming rates, 20% English (reading), 28% average for History, 48% Algebra I, 30% Algebra II, 40% Geometry, and about a 30% average for Science classes. I have a hunch that changing the name to Thurgood Marshall, (which we are told will make the students feel better) will not have any direct effect on the real problems we have.

    Residents with students at Robert E. Lee and W.T. Woodson should be on the alert. JEB is considered an easy target. The partisan led board will be coming after your schools next. Write it down.

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    1. Your condescension is as ugly as any defense of the defiant name given by a school board in its last gasp of desperation to cling to supremacy. And to try and couch it in partisan political terms is repugnant.

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    2. Sorry that you can't handle the truth. Follow the links from this article and take a look at the petitions. Party leaders of the Fairfax County Democratic Party are pushing this agenda. Ask yourself why whenever school boundary's are changed it only adds to the REAL problems we face that are caused by economic segregation. Well planned boundary's with integrated schools in mind would do much to help our schools. Changing a name does nothing.

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  19. The Confederates LOST THE WAR. Don't try to tell me that our re-United States should continue to honor a bunch of dead traitors.

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  20. I don't really agree with changing the name, but if it absolutely has to be done, they should pick a name like Lake Barcroft High School. Why does it have to be named after a person? There is no good reason that it does. It just seems to start unnecessary drama.

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