School Renaming Diverts Attention From Minority Achievement Gap

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on July 14, 2018.

On June 7 Arlington School Board (APS) voted unanimously to rename Washington-Lee (W-L) High School without prior public notice. The School Board’s rationale for the unscheduled vote was that as leader of the Confederate Army Robert E. Lee was a traitor to the nation.

Overlooked was:

  • the pardon Lee received posthumously from Congress in 1975;
  • the credit given to him for reconciling North and South after the war; as well as
  • the hypocrisy of honoring George Washington and other Founding Fathers, who profited from slavery, while vilifying Lee.

The School Board ignored the fact that 87 percent of the 2,647 respondents to a 2013 ARLnow poll opposed renaming the school, as well as the concerted opposition of W-L alumni and friends, more than 900 of whom have signed a petition opposing the name change.

The School Board gave no consideration to the negative impact of the name change on W-L graduates who have traditionally relied upon its stellar reputation to boost their college admission prospects.

Not surprisingly those who want to keep W-L’s name are now being labeled racist. Let me tell you what I think is racist. It is racist to dredge up Civil War history to divert attention from the real issue–namely Arlington’s minority student achievement gap.

It is racist to wipe out a Civil Rights landmark-Washington-Lee High School, which was the first high school in the state of Virginia to integrate.

It is racist to spawn racial division where none existed before. Prior to the School Board’s actions there were no racial incidents at W-L; now we have students race baiting other students. The School Board should be ashamed.

Lastly, it is profligate to spend $500,000 or more on renaming W-L when that money could be used to benefit minority students.