WASHINGTON — After years of discussion and deliberation, a nearly four-hour session by the Fairfax County School Board Thursday night into Friday morning finally lead to a decision on what to call a Falls Church high school named after a Confederate officer.
The school board voted to rename the school Justice High School.
Board member Sandy Evans from the Mason District said that the name will honor Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Barbara Rose Johns, Louis Gonzaga Mendez Jr. and all those who have fought for justice and equality. Johns was a Civil Rights leader. Mendez was an U.S. Army officer who joined the Virginia education department and lived for many years in Falls Church.
Changing the name could cost at least $900,000.
The vote for Mendez failed on a tie vote. It was one of the top names that came out during a community vote last September.
Members continued their debate with members bringing up the community vote, where the top two names were variations of Stuart and Justice Thurgood Marshall. On the third hour of the meeting, Stuart High came up for a vote but it did not have enough to pass.
The next name to be voted on was Justice Thurgood Marshall. Member-at-large Karen Keys-Gamarra said that skipping over Marshall, who argued Brown vs. Board of Education, would be a slap in the face. Hunter Mill District representative Pat Hynes voiced her support of the name.
Dalia Palchick, who represents the Providence District, said that she prefers Justice, as Springfield representative Elizabeth Schultz voiced her disagreement. Schultz had pushed for Mendez and said that she can’t support the way the vote is being conducted, saying earlier that the board was “making up rules as we go along.”
A substitute motion — to be known as Justice High School — was put forth. Passage of the vote was not unanimous, with some including Schultz, Tamara Derenak Kaufax of Lee District and Sully District’s Thomas Wilson voting against the motion.
Braddock District’s Megan McLaughlin said the board wrestled with a really tough decision.
Evans said the renaming has been the hardest issue in her eight years on the board but believes it will be a decision they will be proud of the future.
The next step is to come up with a plan by mid-December on how to implement the name change.
WTOP’s Michelle Basch contributed to this report.
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