Opinion: Letter to the Editor: ‘Come Together’ For Stuart

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: ‘Come Together’ For Stuart

Next Thursday, Oct. 26, the Fairfax County School Board (FCSB) is scheduled to vote on the new name for J.E.B. Stuart High School. After a lengthy process, Superintendent Brabrand suggested to the FCSB that they choose from among the top five choices that resulted from consideration of 73 possible names in a vote of residents of the J.E.B. Stuart Pyramid that occurred on Sept. 16, 2017. The top five choices in descending order are Stuart, Thurgood Marshall, Barbara Rose Johns, Peace Valley, and Louis Mendez.

The vote to change the school name occurred on July 27, 2017. During consideration of a motion to change the name, Mount Vernon School Board representative Karen Corbett Sanders stated the following: "We need to come together with Stuart High School." This comment by Ms. Corbett Sanders occurred after an earlier motion to delay the name change decision failed on a 6-5 vote. During the debate before that vote, Ms. Corbett Sanders described in detail that it took 30 years to get over the emotional feelings resulting from the name change in our community from Groveton High School (which she attended) to West Potomac High School.

Each time the J.E.B. Stuart community has been asked by FCSB to vote on whether the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School should be changed or on what the new name should be, the answer came back: either don't change the name or change it to Stuart. First, in 2016, the FCSB polled local residents. There were 3,414 responses. 56 percent said don't change the name. 35 percent favored a name change. 8 percent had no opinion. This result did not comport with the decision the FCSB wanted to make to change the name, so they next asked the entire student body of the high school to vote. 90 percent of the students did not vote and of the 10 percent that voted only one-third favored changing the name, 3 percent of the entire student body. Again, this result did not support what the FCSB wanted to do. Finally, the FCSB held a public meeting on Sept. 9, 2017, in which anyone on the planet could propose a new name for the school. 73 names were proposed and they were voted on solely by residents of the Stuart Pyramid on Sept. 16, 2017. Each voter was permitted to vote for a first, second, and third choice. Of the first place votes, "Stuart" received twice as many votes as the next choice (Marshall).

On Oct. 26, I am looking to our School Board representative Karen Corbett Sanders to display integrity and vote for "Stuart" as the new name for J.E.B. Stuart High School, as she said she would do when she voted on July 27, 2017 to change the school name.

Full disclosure: I represent five citizen plaintiffs, four of whom are from the Stuart Pyramid, who are suing the FCSB, Superintendent Brabrand and Mason District representative Sandra Evans in her capacity as an FCSB member. The law suit requests a permanent injunction based upon the allegations that the regulation enacted by FCSB to govern school name changes is unconstitutional concerning vague terminology and voting requirements violating the requirement of equal protection, and was not followed by FCSB during the name change process. Among other things, the regulation includes the undefined vague terms "compelling need," "sufficient support" and "community." The law suit requests that the injunction compel FCSB to vacate its name change decision, go back to square one, revise the regulation so that it is constitutional and understandable by, among other things, defining the three vague terms mentioned above, and then follow it for this and any other school name change. The law suit does not request that any particular school name be imposed on FCSB.

H. Jay Spiegel

Mount Vernon