Policy change could alter Confederate-linked school names in Fairfax County, Va.

Dec. 21, 2015
Revised policy allows board to change schools' names if a "compelling need" arises

The Fairfax County (Va.) district has changed its policy regarding the naming of schools, which could lead to changes at schools named for Confederate generals.

The Washington Post reports that students, community members and alumni in Fairfax County have been urging the school system to change the names of two high schools named for Confederate generals — J.E.B. Stuart and Robert E. Lee — and a third named for a past superintendent, W.T. Woodson, who was an opponent of desegregation.

The school board has voted unanimously to alter its naming policy, which had barred officials from changing the names of school buildings unless the building was repurposed. Under the new policy, the board also can change a name “where some other compelling need exists.”

The campaign to change the schools’ names began in June, after nine black members of a church in Charleston, S.C., were shot to death by a white supremacist. The racist attack spurred communities across the nation to reexamine places named for Confederate figures and others who defended slavery or who backed segregation.

A petition on change.org, "Rename Confederate and Segregation-themed public schools in Fairfax County, Virginia," has more than 1,250 supporters.

"The students that walk the hallowed halls of our school in 2015 are a more diverse group than ever," the petition says, "and they deserve a school name that represents something more germane to where we are today, not represented by Confederate history that was recycled in the 1950s for a hateful purpose: to hurt and shame black youth that were, by court order, integrated into our county’s white school system."

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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