In light of new national attention to insensitize school names, MCPS is making the right decision for its students by reviewing all school names and considering renaming any they deem to be named after Confederate leaders or racist historical figures.
Schools in MCPS named after Confederates or racists should change their names to be more appropriate and representative of the diverse student body they serve in 2019.
Most of the schools still named after racist leaders were built from 1950-70, when racism and segregation were widespread, according to a June 2018 History.com article. Fifty years later demographics and popular attitudes have dramatically changed. Schools named after Confederate leaders or racists who fought for slavery and segregation do not represent the students and teachers who attend them.
In Montgomery County, Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle is a majority minority school with 60 percent of the students being Hispanic, 25.8 percent black and less than five percent white, according to a Feb. 6 article from Bethesda Magazine. While Col. E. Brooke Lee did help Montgomery County in many ways during his time as the governor of Maryland, including bringing water and electricity to certain areas, he also tried to segregate blacks and whites by refusing to sell land to those of African descent. MCPS is doing right by strongly considering renaming the school.
The name of a school is much more than just a sign above the entrance. Names are important to first impressions, and it is unfair to students and staff in schools with diverse and accepting communities in MCPS–or any school system–to have multiple schools named after racists and slave owners. It’s a selective argument to say that the good things some people have done make up for being racist. It is important to look at a person’s life with full context, but when it comes to racist comments or owning slaves, a larger pattern of thought and behavior is established. MCPS shouldn’t just praise the good and ignore the bad.
J.E.B. Stuart High School in Fairfax, Va. named after a Confederate General showed the importance of a name after it gained celebrity attention. The school was renamed after Thurgood Marshall, following actress Julianne Moore and producer Bruce Cohen, both J.E.B. Stuart graduates, and many of the students started a Change.Org petition to make the name more representative, according to a May 2017 Patch article.
A major problem with renaming schools is the large cost. Name changes have cost more than $1 million dollars due to items with school logos that must be changed. Regardless of the price, students are passionate about this issue and have shown change is needed. Last year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, students tore down a Confederate statue after the system board refused to take action.
U.S. school systems and MCPS specifically should change these schools’ names. Currently, schools are waiting for students to speak up and demand change when they should be taking the initiative by renaming schools beforehand and MCPS should reevaluate their current naming procedure to guarantee that names are more representative of the changing demographics.
It is unfair to have students attend schools with offensive names that do not represent who they are. As MCPS revisits these school names, students will soon find out if the system is willing to take action.