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Virginia school board votes to remove names Thomas Jefferson, George Mason from schools

An October survey found that the majority of participants did not approve of removing the founders' names

Updated: December 9, 2020 - 2:38pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

A suburban Virginia school board has unanimously voted to remove the names of founders Thomas Jefferson and George Mason, respectively, from one of its elementary and high schools. 

The results of the 7-0 vote run contrary to the results of a community survey distributed by the school board in October, which found that 56% of participants opposed changing the names of the schools.

Greg Anderson, the chairman of the Falls Church School Board, said Tuesday night, when the vote took place, "After deep and careful consideration of everything I’ve heard and read, I conclude that renaming both schools is in the best interest of our students and a necessary part of our equity work." 

The name change initiative began during the summer, at the height of the social unrest that swept the nation in the wake of the death of George Floyd. 

"I considered the survey results and the community discussion that followed, and I revisited our public hearings," Anderson said. "I conclude that the public is split, and if you go beyond the simple number, I’ve heard reasoned perspectives from those in favor of retaining the names and from those in favor of changing the names."

Survey participants said they were opposed to changing the school names because, among other reasons, Jefferson and Mason helped shape the nation and contributed significantly to the foundational elements of the state. 

One school board member, Shannon Litton, said she considered the issue over several months and said she came to understand the pain that the names of Jefferson and Mason could cause African American students.

"The voice of some African Americans in our community who spoke up pushed me off the fence on to the side of seeing that it is essential we change the names. What I heard from them is that this matters," she said.

The school board will meet again on December 15 and begin the process of selecting new names for the schools.

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