Tensions rising over changing the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School

Tensions rising over changing the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School

FALLS CHURCH, VA (WUSA9) - Tensions are rising in the controversy over changing the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School in Fairfax County. 

Three community leaders advocating to keep the name have filed police reports after they were called white supremacists on the anonymous web forum Fairfax Underground. Now, they say they won't attend the meeting out of fear for their safety. 

This comes a day before the school system hosts a community wide meeting on the subject at the high school planned for Thursday night at 6:30.

RELATED: Confederate controversy over JEB Stuart High School name

Meanwhile, the NAACP has sent out a change.org petition started by actor Julianne Moore and Hollywood producer Bruce Cohen who are both Stuart alums and are advocating the school be named after Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. 

Some pro-change people have pushed the idea that the 1958 Fairfax County School Board chose "J.E.B. Stuart" as part of the massive resistance campaign to resist the Civil Rights movement. The other side says those allegations are false.

"This area is where J.E.B. Stuart actually had his encampment during the Civil War," said Kate Walter, a Stuart parent and local historical researcher. She  wants to keep the name because of it's historical significance to this part of Falls Church. 

"It was a strategic height that looked down over Washington, D.C.," Kate explains about the land.

You probably driven the big Route 7 hill, right by the historical marker. It's there where Stuart saw Union observers spying on him in balloons, the first aerial surveillance. With a smaller number of troops, Stuart strategize by inventing a deception technique that would go down in military history. He built fake cannons out of logs the were dubbed "Quaker Cannons" to make his troops look bigger.

Stuart isn't the only Fairfax County school with a name plucked from the Civil War. 

"You start talking about names, you've got Mosby Woods, you've got Chantilly (named for a slave plantation), you've got a number of them that are related to Civil War landmarks," said Walter.

RELATED: Fairfax school board to vote on high school name change

Walter initially was against a name because of the cost of changing, estimated to be close to $1 million.

"I've become increasingly distressed by, what I would say, the deceptive practices by our school board," said Walter.

Walter says her extensive research shows the name J.E.B. Stuart did not come out of massive resistance in 1958, as some allege, but a new policy back then, to name schools after individuals. 

The arguments about school names were over places. Springfield residents did not their kids going to "Franconia" high school, so it was named "Lee High School" after the Lee district.

"In 1958 there was one school named after a Confederal General. One school named after a Confederate General.  J.E.B. Stuart High School. That's it. Robert E. Lee High School was name Lee High School after the Lee District and it then became Robert E. Lee in the 1960s at the initiative of parent groups, not the school board," said Walter.

"How can you have a civil discourse without true facts. And people just can't make facts and insert them. And if they do, then how can we point up at the national level and be disgusted?," Walter said.

She says the reason the debate is bogged down with accusations and falsehoods is "because people outside do not have a vested interest in our community. "

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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