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Friday, June 9, 2017

School board hears community views on changing the name of Stuart High School

Supports of a name change pack the audience at the June 8 school board meeting.
Members of the Stuart High School community presented impassioned statements to the Fairfax County School Board June 8 about the need to remove from the school the name of a Confederate general who supported white supremacy.

Several opponents of a name change also spoke, citing history, costs, an improperly conducted process, and other reasons as they urged the board to keep the Stuart name.
The school board is scheduled to vote on whether or not to change the school’s name next month.

Stuart students and alumni initiated a call for a name change two years ago. The school board passed a resolution last July calling for the creation of an ad hoc committee to study the matter. The committee failed to reach a consensus.

Daniel Villegas, president of the Stuart student body and a member of the ad hoc community, urged the school board to approve a name change because of the racist principles behind the current name, which honors a Confederate general who gave up his citizenship. Schools should be named for “Americans we try to emulate.”

“We can’t let this continue, knowing the history behind it,” Villegas said. “What we learned in class about the civil rights process was nothing got done until someone did it.”

Retaining the name of JEB Stuart High School is akin to “supporting the core values of the Confederacy,” said attorney Sean Perryman.

The Confederacy was founded on the concept that “the Negro is not equal to the white man,” and “Confederates fought and died for the ideal of white supremacy,” he said. That does not fit in with “the mission endorsed by the school board to embrace diversity and inclusion.”

“JEB Stuart is not a hero,” said Kofi Annan, the president of the Fairfax County NAACP. “He fought and died for the notions of slavery and white supremacy.”

“This is not a decision about dollars and cents,” Annan said, referring to the claim by opponents that a name change is too costly. “It’s a moral issue.” He urged the school board to lead on this issue, “not hide behind dishonest numbers.”

While opponents of a name change talk about the need to remember the historical events that happened in the community, he said, “This is about whitewashing our history, not preserving our history.” he said.

Retaining the name would a signal that the school board supports the growing climate of racism in the country reflected by a resurgence of the Klan and hate crimes, he said. “Symbolic changes produce real and lasting impacts on individuals and our community.”

The bottom line, said Julie Strandlie: “JEB Stuart renounced his U.S. citizenship and his U.S. military commission and took up arms against the United States of America. He was a traitor.”

Strandlie, a member of the county Planning Commission and president of the Holmes Middle School PTA, urged the school board to listen to the Stuart students who are uncomfortable attending a school named for someone who fought to keep their people enslaved.

Among those on the other side of the issue, Vince Nettuno, a member of the ad hoc committee and a founding member of the Stuart Alumni Association, said the supporters “failed to define a compelling need.”

If the school name is changed, Nettuno warned, the Stuart Boosters Club will disband. He urged the school board delay a vote until the vacancy on the board is filled.

Andre Billeaudeaux, a Stuart parent, said the process to consider a name change has been destructive and there’s been a lack of transparency. He also cited a study claiming that another school that went through a name change found test scores declined and students experienced more disruptive behavior.

Another opponent called the Stuart name change issue “a multimillion dollar domino,” that will lead to requests to change the names of other schools named for historic figures. 

33 comments:

  1. Julie - Virginia seceded from the Union on April 4th, 1861. J.E.B. Stuart followed his state by renouncing his service from a country he was no longer a citizen of. I find it offensive that you would call people who took steps to defend the Commonwealth traitors.

    That being said I think a compromise would be to change the school name but keep the park across Peace Valley Lane as J.E.B. Staurt Park.

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    1. this is a very valid point - we have become a nation that currently identifies first with the federal government and second with our state. this was not the case during the civil war or during the founding of our country. the states were "united" but state rights were what the founders built this country on. to look at history through the current way of viewing the world is not understanding history. hiding our history dooms us to repeat the errors and misdeeds from the past.

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    2. @fallschurch492 - The confederate secession has been declared illegal by court opinions, most notably the supreme court within Texas v White.

      Virginia may have declared itself seceded, but that did not make it so. JEB, and all confederate soldiers who willingly fought against the Union were traitors, plain and simple. They escaped prosecution through president Johnson's amnesty proclamations.

      Whether you choose to take offense to those facts is up to you.

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  2. Much ado about nothing...

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  3. Sadly, the name change opponents have become increasingly desperate and prone to resort to bizarre and misleading statements, such as the claims (on the back of the "Keep JEB" t-shirts that some wear) that JEB Stuart was a "Union Hero"; that Stuart is a worthy role model because "he didn't lynch anyone"; and that changing the name of one high school where there is a significant community support for a change will have a "domino effect" on other schools. Changing the name of JEB Stuart is an excellent opportunity to unite the community behind the school.

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    1. JEB Stuart took a bullet for the Union when he served in "Bleeding Kansas." That makes him a Union hero.

      Read up on JEB's leadership qualities. He did not engage in "war crimes" like lynching.

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  4. You need to think of all the good these folks could be accomplishing instead of trying to change a part of History. Don't they have better things to do. -- Like educating these students about the History.

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    1. It's because students were educated about history that they took up the cause of changing the school's name. No doubt, that doesn't sit well with those who have deluded themselves into believing that, if only students were taught to hero-worship JEB Stuart, they'd see him as a suitable role model for their school.

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    2. They're not trying to "change a part of history," they're acknowledging that Stuart is not someone they want to be associated with. In fact, they could actually be contributing to a part of history by changing the name, bringing another (albeit small) portion of Virginia into the 21rst century!

      Do you really think that the school's name is what students need in order to remember the most tumultuous years in our nation since its founding? Really? If that's the case, then we'd better bring all the Hawaiians, Alaskans, and mid-westerners over here, pronto! They're missing a crucial element from their education! Gracious me, how will they ever get into decent colleges?

      Seriously: go ahead and change the name, then post a metal plaque on the building that commemorates the school's original name. There are far more important and notable people and places in our nation that actually deserve to be memorialized.

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    3. There already is a plaque on the wall between the gym and front door that shows the school's name and founding date. And there's a monument (best way I can describe it is tombstone-style) on the front lawn. If the name changes, the cost of commemorating the old name is already taken care of. Since cost seems to be one of--if not the--biggest arguments against the change.

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  5. I would love to read the results of the study on school re-naming and its correlation to student achievement. Citation anyone?

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    1. I would, too. That statement floored me!

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    2. Appears we're all still waiting 2 1/2 days later for someone to support that claim...

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    3. They aren't anxious to post it, since it's full of other odd correlations, like comparisons of 2014 and 2016 Stuart yearbook pictures to show an alleged loss of "group identity" due to the name change debate (despite the fact that the 2016 pictures show students in large groups).

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  6. Ellie - or someone else who was in attendance, can you clarify this: "If the school name is changed, Nettuno warned, the Stuart Boosters Club will disband." What Boosters Club is he referring to?

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    1. He is referring to The J.E.B. Stuart Raiders Athletics Booster Club, Inc. If it disbands (in an exercise of cutting one's nose to spite one's face), another boosters club will form to take its place.

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    2. Your kids are only in HS for four years. For crying out loud, the Boosters will move on without you. Get a life, parents.

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  7. Virginia Tech Civil War Professor Robertson says that to believe that slavery was the cause of the Civil War shows "a lack of historical judgement."

    It would seem that many self-righteous name changers suffer from a deficit of historical facts and context regarding the Civil War era.

    How can one condemn only the Southern slaveholding states and excuse the 5 Union slaveholding states? Hypocrisy. How can one condemn Southern slave owners and excuse Northern slave owners? Hypocrisy.

    Seems one must condemn the North and the South equally.

    Why was there a Civil War? To preserve the Union. The freeing of slaves was an end result, but not why the war was fought. Study the strategy behind the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln did not want to free the slaves. He needed troops and realized there were freed slaves who would fight. He also didn't want foreign countries to back the South. Lincoln's goal was to preserve the Union.

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    1. Fake quote alert! The full Robertson quote is "To say that slavery had nothing to do with the coming of the Civil War is to confess a total ignorance of American history in the 15 years between 1845 and 1860. Likewise, to assert that slavery alone was the cause of the war is to show an amazing lack of historical judgment. Too many of those who write letters to the editor are guilty of oversimplification. The facts are unmistakably clear. Slavery was the focal point of all the differences between north and south. Every disagreement between the two sections except for slavery could have been settled through democratic means. But slavery poisoned all national questions."

      Do listen to the whole thing: http://wvtf.org/post/slavery#stream/0

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    2. 10:35, THANK YOU for giving us a factual quote, instead of a sound bite.

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  8. Spoiled brats. Virginia seceded and lost a war. Some argue their reasons were less about slavery, more about fed gov not twlling them what they can/cant do. So they commemorated those who fought bravely. BFD. Are we gonna remove statues of those who opposed gay marriage since it's sinful to have that opinion now? What if abortion becomes accepted as a horrible practice in 50 years-- condemn everyone who is currently pro choice? This is a total whitewash of history, straight out of 1984 by spoiled brats who refuse to accept that policy issues and life was not cut and dry back then, nor is it now, no matter how much they wish it so or how many ridiculous crusades they start. I look fotward to these poor souls graduating from Peace Love No War No War Never Trump High School, get poisoned by crap taught in college, then return to their parents houses to rail against the next faux outrage.

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    1. Someone needs a snickers

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    2. The spoiled brats were the sore losers who nevertheless wanted their heroes put on a pedestal (literally).

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    3. Hmm. Vietnam Memorial commemorates those who fought & died for a war many Americans didn't support and was arguably lost. Also Gen Westmoreland has a street named after him-- remove it on this basis?

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    4. Last I checked, veterans and casualties of the Vietnam war weren't fighting on behalf an insurrection against the U.S. I'd advise you to only raise this parallel anonymously, like here, because you won't want to have this theory publicly attributed to you.

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    5. Adam, 12:24, and 3:37--yes, well said!

      You other folks need to go on a brain cleanse.

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    6. Sounds about right.

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  9. I'm a legal immigrant here. I have been living here for 30 years of my life and I went to Jeb Stuart. Why can't we spend the money on something else worthwhile??? Like more books or teachers for our kids!!! You know something that's worthwhile!

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    1. We had the opportunity to raise more money for our schools last fall, but citizens voted it down. They seem to think that better education comes from out of nowhere.

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    2. Exactly! Spend the money that is available on things that help educate the kids.

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  10. As a parent of a couple of JEB Stuart kids, change the name and I won't donate another dollar or minute to this school. This shows a stunning lack of ability to prioritize time, effort and money by the School Board. Stuart has a plethora of other issues we could be spending this capital on...things that could actually help educate the kids there.

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    1. Whatever would the school do?! One parent might throw a hissy fit? Oh noes!

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    2. "Voting with your wallet" only makes sense if you're talking about a for-profit entity. What you're talking about would actually take MORE money away from the school, students, and staff that you supposedly care about. Throw your hissy fit if you want, but know this: there are some freshmen in that building who have more maturity and possess greater complex thinking skills than you!

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