Removing Confederate Names From Schools Teaches Students The Wrong Lesson

REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

David Williams President, Taxpayers Protection Alliance
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A peculiar attempt to whitewash history and impose political correctness on the town of Falls Church, Virginia, is being masterminded using secret meetings, troubling tactics and, potentially, lots and lots of tax dollars.

In 2015, a small group of students at J.E.B. Stuart High School began to encourage Fairfax County officials to consider renaming the school. Stuart High, which opened in 1959, was named for a Confederate cavalry general known for his daring reconnaissance missions during the Civil War.  During the early days of the war, Stuart and his men set up camp just a few hundred yards from where the school now stands.

Within several months, the student protest became a cause célèbre that caught the interest of progressive extremists, liberal elites, the PC police and Hollywood stars. In fact, two Academy Award winners who attended Stuart High, actress Julianne Moore and producer Bruce Cohen, initiated an online petition to rename the school for Supreme Court Justice and civil rights activist Thurgood Marshall.

As the name-change effort gained notoriety, the campaign began to employ dubious tactics and underhanded behavior more fitting of an episode of “House of Cards” than a debate over the name of a suburban D.C. high school.

Records obtained by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance through Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act revealed leaders of the name-change effort intentionally tried to hide information from the public, used students as political pawns and hoped to downplay to potential cost of the name change.

Sandy Evans, the chair of Fairfax County Public Schools, worked closely and covertly with a group of progressive activists, such as George Waters, a longtime Democratic crusader in Fairfax County, and a number of Northern Virginia NAACP leaders, including George Alber, Ralph Cooper and Stephen Spitz.

This group of insiders was heavily involved with Evans in developing a school board resolution and working group to consider changing the name, records reveal. These activists were, at times, more influential in developing Fairfax County Public Schools policy than many of the board’s members.

Pat Hynes, another school board member who expressed support for dropping the J.E.B. Stuart name, specifically asked that certain discussions among board members not take place via email. It is patently illegal for government officials to take steps to try to evade the state’s open record laws. Still, it seems clear that Hynes intended to prevent the creation of a trail of correspondences that could allow the public to learn information about the name-change proposal, such as cost, strategy and disagreements among board members.

Emails even indicate Evans and Hynes worked with Alber to secretly place opinion articles in the Stuart High student newspaper that supported the name change. In other words, adults who work professionally in Washington, D.C.-area politics stooped so low that they attempted to influence the content of a high school newspaper.

Supporters of the name change apparently relied on such dishonest and appalling tactics because were trying to make sure the public didn’t find out the hard – and expensive – truth about the name change campaign. Estimates indicate that changing the name of the school could cost taxpayers and donors more than $1 million.

Public records indicate the name change would likely come with a price tag of $750,000 to $930,000, though some assessments reach well over $1 million. Expenses include replacing a synthetic turf football field and redoing the basketball court, ordering new band uniforms and sports jerseys, printing updated stationary and business cards for staff, and exchanging signage.

These costs would most likely be paid by taxpayers since many of the school’s top boosters oppose the name change and don’t appear interested in writing a check to help turn J.E.B. Stuart High School into Thurgood Marshall High School.

Parents and students would also be on the hook for the cost of new spirit wear and gym clothes.

Ultimately, the name of a school isn’t nearly as important as the quality of the education and the lessons taught at the school – and, unfortunately, the shady activists behind the campaign to replace the J.E.B. Stuart name are setting a terrible example for the school’s students.

If efforts to distance the school from Civil War history are successful, students will learn that honesty is overrated, bully tactics are rewarded, and it doesn’t matter how much something cost as long as you’re spending other peoples’ money.

David Williams is president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to promoting a limited, responsible government.