J.E.B. Stuart relatives oppose changing Fairfax Co. high school name

The Fairfax County School Board is set to vote on whether to rename JEB Stuart High School. On Monday, the board will discuss the issues at length.

FALLS CHURCH, VA (WUSA9) - The drive to change J.E.B. Stuart High School's name is personal to Eliza Stuart. 

"He's my great, great, great, great uncle," the 17-year-old rising junior at Stuart High School explained.

She and her father say it's just a coincidence that they live in the Stuart pyramid.  Most of the Stuart relatives and descendants live west of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  

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Her father Hugh Stuart bristles at the argument that Confederate Cavalry Commander General J.E.B. Stuart was a "traitor" because he "took up arms against this country,"  which is what supporters of changing the name say. 

"It's a remarkably facile and incorrect way of viewing it.  He went with his state.  He was a Virginian.  And had Virginia stayed in the Union, he would've fought for the Union.  There's no doubt in my mind about that," said Hugh Stuart.   He was on one of the subcommittees of the ad hoc committee looking into the name change. 

"I went into it without a strong conviction one way or the other. The real question for me is the cost.  I don't know where the money is coming from," said Hugh Stuart. 

Another subcommittee analyzing the cost of a name change estimated it would be at least $930,000.  Hugh Stuart believes that could easily push above a million dollars.  The highest costs would come from changing their relatively new turf field which is adorned with the school's name and "Raiders" mascot name. 

"We were one of the last schools to get turf.  And it was going to cost 100 grand.  And we managed to fundraise 50 grand. And I know that our athletes really worked hard going door to door," said Eliza who plays field hockey for Stuart.  "It would be such a waste to rip it up...there are so many other things that we could be spending that money on," she said. 

Stuart High School is very diverse with two-thirds of the student's second-language learners from more than 70 countries.  More than fifty percent are on free and reduced lunch, a measure of poverty. 

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"The school is constantly teetering on the edge of non-accreditation. The principal has done a great job," said Hugh Stuart, but, the name change has been a distraction, he said.  

Eliza said there only a handful of students, about 15 kids in the I.B. program, a challenging academic program, who want change the name.  "It's not a popular opinion," Eliza said. Just a select few kids and people from outside the community are pushing the name change, she said.  

"I feel like it's unfair for them to come in and want to change the name," said Eliza. While the idea may have started with a couple of those students, the majority do not want the name changed or just don't care.  

Surveys of student and community members show most do not want J.E.B. Stuart's named changed. 

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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