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Virginia School Board Votes To Rename Robert E. Lee High School After John Lewis

Ryan Ford 24 Jul 2020

The discussion around monuments in America, particularly concerning the Confederacy, continues to stir up emotions in every corner of the nation. While some argue against removing monuments to those who seceded from the nation and took up arms against it as erasure of history, others say that taking down such monuments is long overdue.

In Virginia, one school board has made headlines for its decision to rename a high school in favor of honoring a hero of the Civil Rights Era.

A Confederate general and Virginia native is having his name removed from one of the state's high schools in favor of Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

After a community consultation, Springfield, Virginia's Robert E. Lee High School will be renamed John R. Lewis High School, Fox 5 DC reported.

A school board vote and subsequent public hearing approved the name change on July 23, less than a week after the Civil Rights Era icon and Congressman passed away.

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Officials said that community input was critical to the name change.

"The Board heard from students, teachers and staff members, families, and the community about the old name," said Fairfax County School Board Chair Ricardy Anderson in a press release.

"It was important for us to be mindful of these comments and to select a name that reflected the diversity and multiculturalism that currently exists at the school and in our community. Rep. Lewis was a champion of the Civil Rights movement, and our Board strongly believes this is an appropriate tribute to an individual who is a true American hero. We will also honor his life’s work by continuing to promote equity, justice, tolerance and service in the work that we do."

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As far as the community is concerned, they couldn't have chosen a better person to replace Robert E. Lee.

"We heard from so many community members, students, and alumni about the amazing things that John Lewis did during his life. And I think many people would be proud to have that as the name of their school. I think it would be an honor for the community as well as I hope, the congressman's family," School Board Member Tamara Derenak Kaufax, who initially proposed the name change, told WJLA.

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And everyone agreed that the time was right to make the change.

"The name Robert E. Lee is forever connected to the Confederacy, and Confederate values are ones that do not align with our community," Kaufax explained in the press release. "Our schools must be places where all students, staff, and members of the community feel safe and supported. I believe that John Lewis’ extraordinary life and advocacy for racial justice will serve as an inspiration to our students and community for generations to come."

In the end, the entire school board agreed, voting unanimously to make the change — a vote that was met with applause and cheers, according to WJLA.

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Although the discussions over naming schools and erecting monuments to figures associated with the Confederacy seem recent, this name change has been brewing for some time.

"The name is, in all honesty, an embarrassment to the many students that attend Lee High School. It's an 80 percent minority population that goes to that school every day. The choice is obvious to me," student Kimberly Boateng said at a public hearing in June, according to WJLA.

The new name is expected be on the school this fall.

h/t: WJLA, Fox 5 DC

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