Fairfax Co. School Board votes to hold hearing on renaming Robert E. Lee High School

The Fairfax County School Board voted unanimously Thursday to begin a formal discussion about changing the name of Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, Virginia.

The vote is the beginning of a lengthy process required to change the name of a Virginia high school. A new name must be selected within guidelines set by the county school system.

In a statement sent to the school community Thursday night, the school system said:

At tonight’s School Board Forum, School Board Member Tamara Derenak Kaufax and School Board Member-at-Large Karen Keys-Gamarra requested the School Board consider beginning the process to rename Robert E. Lee High School.  The School Board indicated support for moving forward with a proposal to rename the school and will schedule it as New Business at its February 20 School Board Meeting.

The Fairfax County School Board revised its policy and regulation for naming and renaming school facilities last October. Read that policy here. The process to rename a school facility is outlined here.

NBC Washington spoke to students from the majority-minority school about why they feel the change is necessary.

“The Confederacy wouldn’t have wanted to see that many students of color being educated in that kind of institution, and here’s the Confederate leader in that school,” said junior Kimberly Boateng.

Robert E. Lee High School could become the third school to shed the name of a Confederate general. J.E.B. Stuart High School and Washington-Lee High School previously changed their names to Justice High School and Washington-Liberty High School, respectively.

In March, Fairfax County removed Confederate leaders’ names from local parks.

Robert E. Lee was the commander of the Confederate army during the American Civil War.

In a related move, the Virginia House advanced legislation to scrap the state’s Lee-Jackson holiday celebrating two Confederate generals.

The Democratic-led House voted Thursday to pass legislation that would make Election Day a state holiday instead of Lee-Jackson Day.

The Senate has already passed its version of the legislation. Both chambers must sign off on legislation before it goes to the governor for approval.

Lee-Jackson Day, established over 100 years ago, is observed annually on the Friday preceding the third Monday in January. It honors Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, both native Virginians.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct that the guidelines are from Fairfax County Public Schools. 

WTOP’s Matt Small and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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