FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Strong opposition and steadfast support ran throughout a Tuesday night meeting on whether Falls Church’s J.E.B. Stuart High School should keep the name of the Confederate general or get a new one.
“It was named J.E.B. Stuart because that was where he fought around here,” said Harriet “Ozzi” Mast, an alumna and longtime teacher at the school. “Nobody thought …’Yay, J.E.B. Stuart’ because he was a Confederate general.”
Student Elijah Williams, a junior at the school, said while some people have argued that students should learn more about Stuart’s accomplishments, he feels the man should not be honored because “he fought for slavery.”
“It’s like if we had a murderer in front of a trial and we said, ‘He’s a good man, we promise. He might have killed someone, but he’s a good man,'” Williams said.
Early in the meeting, a woman who was standing and holding up a protest sign was asked to sit down and be respectful. Then, another audience member wanted to respond to a presenter’s remarks, calling them “half-truths.” Others in the audience began chanting “let him speak” as a meeting facilitator tried to quiet the crowd.
It was the second community meeting on the name change issue held at the school in less than a week.
The Fairfax County School Board has charged an ad hoc committee to look into how much public support there is for a name change.
Last week’s meeting was sponsored by a subcommittee that’s collecting arguments in favor of a change. Tuesday’s event was organized by another subcommittee that’s focused on keeping the name and finding a compromise to please both sides.
Subcommittee members suggested possibly renaming the school gym to honor a different historical figure or changing the school’s “Raiders” theme to one honoring Buffalo Soldiers.
The Fairfax County School Board is scheduled to vote next month on whether the name should stay or go.