by Iqra Choudry
The FCPS School Board has yet to discuss J.E.B. Stuart High School’s name change after it was brought up by five current students who attend the school. The name came under scrutiny after the mass shooting at Charleston Church.
After the Charleston Church shooting on June 17, J.E.B Stuarts’ name incited some anger around the community. Alumni and students from the school created a petition in order to change the name. Five current seniors, Cassie Marcotty, Anna Rowan, Abby Conde, Lidia Amanuel, and Marley Finley, who call themselves “Students for Change”, proposed a name change. They believe that J.E.B. Stuart High School does not represent the ideas and beliefs of Stuart himself, so why keep the name?
The school was named after James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart. Stuart was in the United States Army. He was an officer who later became a Confederate States Army general during the American Civil War. “The five of us have always felt uncomfortable with our school’s current name, mascot, and colors,” Finely said.
The girls are working alongside alumni and Academy award winner Julianne Moore and producer Bruce Cohen, who have been helping them throughout this process. Julianne Moore and Bruce Cohen created the petition to support the effort that the Students for Change started, because they too feel the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School should be changed. The petition was posted to change.org and so far has 33,826 supporters.
The petition was directed towards Fairfax County School Board Member Sandy Evans, who represents the Mason District. In her August newsletter, Evans stated that they will have a “civil discussion where all sides listen to and understand each other’s views.”
In an interview with The Daily Caller, Moore said, “We name our buildings, monuments, and parks after exalted and heroic individuals as a way to honor them, and inspire ourselves to do better and reach for more in our own lives. It is reprehensible to me that in this day and age a school should carry and celebrate the name of a person who fought for the enslavement of other human beings.”
The Students for Change believe that J.E.B. Stuart High School no longer represents the values of the Confederacy, but instead represents the values of a diverse student body. When asked about their opinions on the representation of Stuart they said, “J.E.B. Stuart is memorialized as a Confederate general. Our mascot is a Raider, a Confederate soldier. Our colors are the colors of the Confederate flag. White supremacy and oppression were at the core of the Confederacy. Our school is wonderfully diverse and inclusive. The Confederate symbols of our current name, mascot, and colors are blatant misrepresentations of whom we are.”
Some agree with changing the name of the school, while others are finding it a challenge to choose a new name. Those who agree to the name change believe that the name should represent the ideas and values of Stuart High School at this point in time. “It should be a name that represents the diversity and open-mindedness towards different races and cultures,” said the Students for Change.
“Our school should be named for Justice Thurgood Marshall. He lived in Lake Barcroft from 1968 to his death in 1993. Marshall fought and won Brown vs. the Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruling for the desegregated of our nation’s schools. While on the Supreme Court, Justice Marshall issued numerous opinions stressing the importance of equal educational opportunities for all. While our school’s current symbols signify racism, Justice Thurgood Marshall signifies equality, and is thus an excellent representation of our school community.” said the members of the Students for Change.
Justice Thurgood Marshall was an active member of the Lake Barcroft community. Stuart currently also has a Thurgood Marshall Fund sponsored by the Lake Barcroft Foundation that awards scholarships to deserving J.E.B. Stuart graduates.
When other students were asked about their opinions on the name change, there were mixed responses. Sophomore Sarah Rutherford said, “I think that we shouldn’t change the name because it is going to cost the school a lot of money and also because the amount of people who are actually offended by it at this school is probably little to none.”
“I think it’s important that this issue be discussed,” said sophomore Emma Van Zandt. “I definitely do not believe that we still represent the beliefs of any confederate soldier. In fact, if J.E.B. Stuart were to visit our school now, he’d probably be shocked.” “This is a good thing – if we represented the beliefs of the confederate America, our school wouldn’t look anything like it does today. There would be no diversity of race, and with that no diversity of opinion, religion, and experiences. Our school wouldn’t be as accepting and welcoming to all people, regardless of race, as it is today.”
In a survey conducted about Stuarts’ name change, 60 percent of the kids believe the name should not be changed. The other 40 percent believe the name should be changed to either Woodrow Wilson High School or Peace Valley Lane High School.
The school’s name change has triggered a lot of buzz in the community and on social media. The school and the Students for Change have received mixed views about their proposal from the Stuart community. However, the Students for Change are still advocating for the name change and believe “It isn’t right that we identify a place we love with symbols commemorating a message we find oppressive and racist. The fact that our school was given its name as a part of a Massive Resistance to send this hateful message is shameful.”