The name change decision should have fallen on the city

Eli Wildman, Staff Reporter

A sign advertising the new high school, which the School Board voted to change the name of earlier this month. (Photo by Sequoia Wyckoff)

I believe in justice.  I believe in equality.  I believe that all Americans should be treated equally under the law.  I believe that we are moving in the right direction toward justice.  I also believe changing the names of the schools by a school board vote is not the way to do this.  

By changing the names of George Mason High School and Thomas Jefferson Elementary school, it is setting a precedent for the rest of Virginia, and possibly the nation to see.  This is a dangerous precedent being set by the school board, and one that should be more directly decided in the public, not on the shoulders of a seven member school board.  This issue is less about schools and more about cultural change.   

When a survey was sent out to the people of Falls Church about the idea of a name change, the results came back conclusive. Overall, 56% of participants wanted to keep the name of George Mason the way it is, with 26% against, then 19% with no opinion.  Thomas Jefferson had a number of 56% for, 23% against, and 22% with no opinion.  

It was also predicted that the changing of school names would cost more than $100,000 for both of the schools, a massive cost in a little city.  During this pandemic, the School Board has had to make numerous budget cuts because of shortfalls in income as a result of the pandemic, which could be a better source of spending than the renaming of the schools.  Our budget is tight this year. The district is also finishing up an 108 million dollar new school.

I believe that keeping the names the way they are is not racist.  I think believing that Thomas Jefferson and George Mason should be remembered for the good things they did to help shape the country we live in today is not racist. Keeping the names is about remembering people for the positive things they have done in contributing to the foundation of not only Virginia but also the country as a whole. 

I believe that we cannot set a precedent through the changing of the school names without a more formal decision making process that involves the public more.  As a city, we have not embraced the ramifications of the name change, and I believe that if we choose to change the name of George Mason and Thomas Jefferson it has to be done through the public, as it is less of an issue of schools but one of shifting culture instead.

This is one of a series of student-written opinions about the potential name change of George Mason High School and Thomas Jefferson Elementary. Read more here.

Opinion articles in The Lasso reflect the opinion of the writer(s). They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Lasso Editorial Board or of George Mason High School.