Virginia to Rename Schools Honoring Jefferson, Mason

Officials in Falls Church, Virginia, voted unanimously to rename two schools named after Thomas Jefferson and George Mason, The Hill reported.

The Falls Church School Board voted 7-0 on Tuesday to rename Thomas Jefferson Elementary and George Mason High schools.

“The Board took seriously the viewpoints and concerns raised by many students, parents, staff, and community members,” said School Board Chair Greg Anderson.

However, according to the school board nearly 3,500 former and current students, parents and staff filled out a voluntary survey on the issue in October. Overall, 56% of the respondents said “no” when asked if the names should change. Those who opposed the name change said the two men made significant contributions to Virginia and the United States. Some respondents said Thomas Jefferson and George Mason’s histories of slaveholding could make students feel marginalized and uncomfortable.

The school name change follows a summer of nationwide protests following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Those who opposed the change said that “the names should not be changed based on George Mason and Thomas Jefferson owning slaves because that was a norm at the time” and that a change would be “a waste” of school resources,” according to the school board.

Officials estimate the cost to be about about $96,760 for George Mason High School and $13,500 for Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

“The Board took seriously the viewpoints and concerns raised by many students, parents, staff, and community members,” School Board Chair Greg Anderson said in a statement after Tuesday’s vote. “We thank everyone who shared their perspectives with us and will be mindful of your comments as we now begin selecting names that reflect the diversity of opinions in our community. Our schools must be places where all students, staff, and community members feel safe, supported, and inspired.”

Earlier this year there were calls and attempts to remove statues and memorials to a number of historical figures, including Confederate leaders, explorer Christopher Columbus and more. Some have called for the removal of statues of Founding Fathers who owned enslaved people, such as Jefferson and former President George Washington.

Thomas Jefferson was the nation’s third president, author of the Declaration of Independence and governor of Virginia. George Mason wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights, and an architect of the United States Bill of Rights.

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About Catherine Smith

Catherine Smith is a newcomer to Washington D.C. She met and married an American journalist and moved to D.C. from the U.K. She graduated with a B.A. in Graphics, Media, and Communications and worked in design and retail in the U.K.

Photo: Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale (American, 1778-1860) (oil on canvas from the White House collection, Washington DC), 1853. (Photo by GraphicaArtis/Getty Images)