Woodrow Wilson High renaming window for public input opens

The public now has a chance to help rename a D.C. public high school bearing the name of a former U.S. president who the school system and others says perpetuated racism in D.C.

D.C. Public Schools is fielding name suggestions for Woodrow Wilson High School in Ward 3 through an online form until Oct. 30.

Over the summer, a panel was commissioned by Mayor Muriel Bowser called the District of Columbia Facilities and Commemorative Expressions Working Group, or DCFACES for short.

The panel was created in response to the death of George Floyd during an arrest in Minneapolis, the subsequent racial justice protests and nationwide demands to reevaluate why the country honors historical figures who held divisive philosophies through the naming of buildings and erection of statues.

DCFACES cited 21 schools that should be changed for those reasons. DCPS said Woodrow Wilson tops the list, since efforts were already underway before the summer to remove Wilson’s name.

DCPS said they agreed with Bowser and others that the school’s name is “unseemly” and “does not reflect DCPS values.”

“Woodrow Wilson’s racist legacy and policies of segregation (were) acutely carried out against Black federal employees in the District and Black residents of Reno City, where the school now sits,” DCPS says on its website.

Reno City was a section of Northwest D.C.’s Tenleytown neighborhood, populated by former enslaved Americans following the Civil War.

Reno City eventually disappeared during the 1950s through decades of development and condemnation of buildings.

Woodrow Wilson High School remains in Tenleytown, across from Fort Reno Park.

The online form to rename the school includes a list of criteria that must be met:

  1. The individual has made a significant contribution to society.
  2. The name would lend prestige and status to an institution of learning.
  3. The individual exemplifies DCPS’ mission, vision, and values.
  4. The individual must not have enslaved other humans, supported the institution of slavery, furthered systemic racism, supported the oppression of persons of color and/or women, been a member of any supremacist organization, or committed any acts that violate the DC Human Rights Act.
  5. The individual must not be a living person and must have been deceased for at least two years, unless the deceased person was a president or vice president of the U.S., a U.S, senator or representative, a D.C. mayor, or a member of the D.C. Council.
  6. The individual’s given name and surname must be used.

Following the public comment period, finalists will be narrowed before a winner is selected.

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