A push is underway to rename two Fairfax County high schools named for Confederate leaders, and a third school named for a school superintendent questioned for his role in desegregation.
More than 890 people had signed an online petition as of 5 p.m. Monday asking for immediate changes to the names of J.E.B. Stuart High in Falls Church, Va.; Robert E. Lee High in Springfield, Va. and W.T. Woodson High in Fairfax, Va.
"Current display of Confederate and segregationist names and themes on government buildings can only serve to fuel legitimacy among 21st century white supremacists," the petition says.
The schools were named in the late '50s and early '60s to "fuel racial tension," the petition says.
Four students of J.E.B. Stuart High, which is named after a Confederate general in the Civil War, approached the Fairfax County Public School board about two weeks ago asking for a change to the name. Students of the diverse school started their push to rename the school before summer vacation started and how to handle Confederate history was in the national spotlight.
"I was very impressed with the students who came to me and wanted to have this conversation about is it time to change the Stuart High School name," FCPS board member Sandy Evans said.
FCPS Board Member Elizabeth Schultz said she supported keeping the schools' names and teaching students about their namesakes.
"I think we can't rewrite history," she said. "The better option is educating and speaking with people about history in context."
A counter-petition has been started urging school officials to retain the school names. More than 1,220 people had signed as of 5 p.m.
A majority of J.E.B. Stuart High alumni who responded to a recent survey said they opposed a change to the school's name.
Student Christian Peredo said he also opposed any change.
"It's too much of a problem to change the name," he said. "This school has had the name for a long time and it's not really the necessary to change it."
W.T. Woodson High is named after a former chairman of the Fairfax County School Board who supported gradual integtration of local schools after the Supreme Court's Ruling ton Brown v. the Board of Education, according to his 1983 obituary in The Washington Post.
The petition writers could not immediately be reached for comment.
The school board will weigh the decision over summer vacation.
A push is also underway to rename Jefferson Davis Highway in Virginia, as News 4 reported.